The National Tooling and Machining Association and the National Institute for Metalworking Skills held their 35th annual NTMA/NIMS National Apprentice Competition in Pittsburgh May 9 through 12, hosting 13 regional champions from around the U.S. The event was hosted by the NTMA Pittsburgh Chapter and its training partner, New Century Careers.
Over the two-day program, competitors were required to produce projects using lathes, mills, and surface grinders and demonstrate their general knowledge in a written exam.
Lab facilities were provided by the New Century Training Innovation Center and the Penn United Technology LIGHT Center.
For the second year, the metalworking standards from the National Institute for Metalworking Skills were used as a qualification requirement. Besides prevailing in their local competition, each Regional Champion had to successfully complete the online exam for the NIMS Machining Level I: Measurement, Materials, and Safety credential to be eligible for the national. NIMS waived the registration and testing fees as part of their sponsorship of the event.
After the points were totaled, first place honors went to Jeremy Graff of Sipco Molding Technologies of the Northwestern Pennsylvania Chapter.
Dustin Strasser of Metal Processors, Inc., of the Michiana Chapter, came in second and Stanley Sieczkowski of Hamill Manufacturing Co. finished third. Twelve of the participants this year were products of formal apprenticeship training programs. One of the competitors qualified based on his achievement of NIMS Machining Level II Credentials. The NTMA Education Team added the NIMS eligibility option in 2005.
As sponsor of the First Place Champion, Sipco received the Grand Prize of a 40 percent discount off the purchase price of selected models of EDM or high speed milling machines from Agie Charmilles/Mikron along with additional cost savings on tools and accessories. Depending on the package chosen, the total value of the prize can exceed $100,000.
In his keynote speech, Agie Charmilles President Harry Moser reminded the students and guests that, “…the key to success for everyone comes down to making choices. As a part of their overall business strategy, the NTMA apprentice sponsors made a good choice to invest in training and, more specifically, in training these individuals. You (students) made the decision to take maximum advantage of the training offered, and here you have arrived as the best machinist apprentices in the country.” He encouraged them to continue to learn and increase their value to their company.
NTMA Chairman of the Board Jeff Kelly (Hamill Manufacturing Co.) talked about the need for skilled metalworking technicians in his company and across the country. He called this component a major factor in maintaining the “critical mass” of resources necessary for us to remain a global leader in manufacturing. He also outlined the key ideas behind a new workforce development initiative NTMA has started known as Precision Jobs for American Manufacturing.
Besides trophies, plaques, scholarships, tools, Gerstner tool chests, and other prizes, the 13 Regional Champions had an additional motivation to excel: a 10-day expense paid trip to Switzerland for the top three finishers hosted by the Swiss Embassy to the United States. This opportunity is part of a program called “Think Swiss” involving the Embassy of Switzerland, Swiss Consulates, and the Swiss Trade Commission in the US. Harry Moser said the tour idea grew from discussions within a business advisory council on which he participates. Consulate officials had recently visited NTMA member Hydromat, Inc. in St. Louis. Company CEO/President Bruno Schmitter told them about his commitment to apprentice training and the company’s long-standing involvement in the NTMA Competition. This sparked interest among the advisory group about ways they might highlight these kinds of activities to further their objective of promoting cooperation in Science, Technology, Education, and Training between our two countries.
The Swiss Ambassador to the US, the Honorable Urs Ziswiler made the award presentation to the three highest scorers at the Awards Banquet. A similar award is planned for the two Gold Medal Champions taking part in the SkillsUSA Precision Machining Technology Contest on June 20-21 in Kansas City, MO. This event is chaired by the National Institute for Metalworking Skills. After returning to the US, the group will attend a Workforce Development Symposium on October 2 in Chicago as VIP guests. There they will have an opportunity to share some highlights of their visit to Europe and to relate their career goals/aspirations to the business/academic/government leaders attending the meeting.
The NTMA represents approximately 1700 member companies in the US Precision Custom Manufacturing industry and includes 50 chapters throughout the United States. Members design and manufacture tools, dies, fixtures, molds, special machines, and precision machined components as well as providing a wide range of engineering, fabrication, and assembly services for global customers. For additional information visit the NTMA homepage at (www.ntma.org)
or contact the NTMA Education Department, 9300 Livingston Road, Ft. Washington, Maryland 20744-4998, (301) 248-6200, (301) 248-7104.