Six Sigmas Apprentice

June 11, 2008
Claims Top Honors in 36th NTMA/NIMS National Competition
Andrew Sears (above), of Six Sigma Inc., was the champion in the 36th annual National Apprentice Competition sponsored by The National Tooling & Machining Association and the National Institute for Metalworking Skills. Sears was one of the seven regional champions who are pictured on these pages and on the cover. These photographs were taken during the machining competition that was held in Cleveland April 24 to 26.
Michael Villegas of Caco Pacific Corp.

Seven regional champions — Craig W. Hargrave, Rachael Lockett, James Moody, Andrew Sears, Lucas Starch, Michael Villegas, and Brendan Wimer — from around the United States converged in Cleveland in late April to participate in the 36th annual NTMA/NIMS National Apprentice Competition.

These regional champions spent two grueling days producing projects with lathes, mills, and surface grinders and demonstrating their general knowledge in a written exam.

Andrew Sears of Six Sigma Inc. ( took first place in the competition. Sears has been in the apprentice program at Six Sigma, a shop that designs, engineers and builds assembly equipment for large manufacturers, for nearly five years.

His shop foreman, Robert Anderson, said one of Sears’s best talents is his ability to listen and absorb whatever’s being told to him, then he carries out the jobs he’s given.

Lucas Starch of Mahuta Tool and Manufacturing ( came in second and James Moody of R & M Manufacturing, of Niles, Mich., finished in third place.

The champions were named at an awards banquet on April 26, presided over by the Roy Sweatman of Southern Manufacturing Technologies, Inc., of Tampa, Fla., chairman of the National Tooling & Machining Association.

Craig W. Hargrave of Precision Grinding & Mfg. Corp.
Rachael Lockett of Christopher Tool & Mfg. Co.
Brendan Wimer of Penn United Technologies
James Moody of R & M Manufacturing

Sweatman linked the availability of skilled production technicians directly to the innovative application of new technology at his company.

“These are only two pieces of a complex business management puzzle that NTMA members must fit together to achieve success. Today more than ever we need to recognize the critical value of investing in training our future workforce,” he said. Sweatman went on to congratulate the competitors and thank their employers for their vision and support of the industry.

This year’s annual event was hosted by the NTMA Cleveland Chapter, and machining lab facilities were provided by the Cuyahoga Community College’s Unified Technology Center.

The seven champions reached the final competition by prevailing in local competitions across the U.S. 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 competition. NIMS waived the registration and testing fees as part of their sponsorship of the event.

As sponsor of the first place champion, Six Sigma received the grand prize, 30 percent discount off the purchase price of selected models of EDM or high speed milling machines from Agie Charmilles along with additional cost savings on tools and accessories.

Harry Moser, chairman of Agie Charmilles Chairman, told the apprentices that they were only beginning the path to becoming experts, and encouraged them to take advantage of every opportunity to learn new skills that would add value to their companies.

The seven regional champions at assembled during the final competition rounds.
Roy Sweatman (right) and Bob Hotujac, president of the Cleveland Chapter of the NTMA, present the champion’s award to Andrew Sears (center).

For the second year, the Embassy of Switzerland agreed to provide a special prize incentive: a 10-day expense paid trip to Switzerland for the top three places hosted by the Swiss Embassy to the United States, and the Swiss Ambassador to the United States, the Honorable Urs Ziswiler made the award presentation at the Awards Banquet.

During the award presentation, Ambassador Ziswiler explained why cooperative projects like these are important to both the Swiss Government and the U.S. economy.

“We are not as foreign as you may think, and we have a lot in common. We share the same challenges and opportunities,” Ziswiler said. He briefly described Switzerland’s dual education system as an example of their effort. Ninth graders in Switzerland are offered a choice of college preparatory courses or occupational apprenticeships, and 70 percent choose apprenticeships from among 400 professions.

The National Tooling & Machining Association ( along with the National Institute for Metalworking Skills ( sponsors the annual apprenticeship competition, and regional competitions and plans are underway for the 2009 event. For information on how you can be involved, contact NTMA Education Director Dick Walker by calling 800/248-6862 or email [email protected].

SkillsUSA and NIMS Metalworking Competition

More than 5000 students and apprentices represent-ing 93 different trades will compete for the crown of the 2008 U.S. Champion in a competition at the H. Roe Bartle Hall in Kansas City, Mo., June 26. Awards will be given June 27. The metalworking competitions include Automated Manufacturing Technology, CNC Milling and CNC Turning, Mechantronics, Precision Machining Technology, Robotics and Automation, Sheet Metal, Technical Drafting and Welding. All contests are run by volunteer teams and firms. For more information and to become involved in the 2009 competition, go to or to