This year’s AMBA Tooling Trailblazer of the Year Award has been presented to Century Die Company of Fremont, Ohio. Tim Myers, general manager of Century Die, accepted the award at the AMBA Conference 2019 in Itasca, Illinois.

The Tooling Trailblazer of the Year Award was established to recognize an AMBA member company whose accomplishments have made a notable impact in the area of education. Those accomplishments may be in the form of in-house apprenticeship programs; successful recruitment at job fairs; co-sponsoring and implementing tooling-related coursework at local high schools, trade schools or colleges; hosting an open house to the community; impacting counselors and teachers with marketing efforts; and organizing or speaking at career day events.

Century Die’s job-shadowing program, Mold Maker Professional for a Day, and its Green Box Derby event are among the educational initiatives that earned the company the Tooling Trailblazer of the Year Award.

Century’s trailblazing endeavors

Based in Fremont, Ohio, Century Die Company offers engineering, design and metrology services. It is a blow mold specialist, but also crafts thermoform, compression and injection molds. Century counts the automotive, appliance, consumer packaging, custom contract machining, industrial and recreation industries among its clients.

As is characteristic of Tooling Trailblazers, Century Die is involved in multiple education-oriented endeavors. The company is a member of the Sandusky County Chamber of Commerce and the Sandusky County Economic Development Corporation. Myers sits on both groups’ boards of trustees and is co-chair of the Workforce Development Committee (a combined effort of the two groups). “The Committee is responsible for several programs this year, including the REACH Career Education Program, in which business representatives visit a class of fifth graders once a month to talk about the ‘world of work,’” he said.   

Another committee program is THINK Manufacturing Career Showcase, a one-day event for Sandusky County ninth graders, where local manufacturers have hands-on tables to illustrate the job opportunities in manufacturing. An additional initiative is the THINK Sandusky County Bus Tour: “We take approximately 45 educators of great influence on tours of several manufacturers in the county that showcase the awesome career possibilities that these educators can share with their students,” he described.

A final program for educators is the Sandusky County Teacher Boot Camp, where 24 teachers spend five days touring manufacturing companies and the related career opportunities. “At the end of the program, these teachers will prepare a report of their experience and how they will take this back to their classroom to help students with their own career path decisions,” said Myers.

Where Century Die really shines, however, is in the two programs it has hosted and sponsored for the last six years – Mold Maker Professional for a Day and the Green Box Derby.

Mold Maker Professional for a Day

Myers calls the Mold Maker Professional for a Day (MMPFAD) program “job shadowing at its finest.” Students in grades 7 through 12 come through Century’s facility and spend the day seeing what moldmaking is about, from project management and quoting, to shipping and accounting.

“The students are provided lunch and a MMPFAD logo’d Tshirt to wear. The program has hosted nearly 300 students – and that’s a lot of pizza,” said Myers.

Since the beginning of the program, Century has hired a half dozen of these students who displayed a passion for machining. Three of them now are apprentices and two more will be enrolled in the apprenticeship program after graduation. Myers said, “It is exciting to participate in a job fair and have a student tell us about their MMPFAD experience from several years prior and how that changed their perspective of a career path!”

The Green Box Derby

In June of 2019, Century will sponsor its 6th Green Box Derby, an energetic, hands-on Workforce Development Committee program. “Students and adults build soapbox derby cars (like in The Little Rascals),” explained Myers, “and race them down a hill behind the county fairgrounds.”

The students compete for scholarships and prizes. First- and second-place winners are awarded scholarships to Terra State Community College for $2,500 and $1,000, respectively. The remaining student racers are entered into a drawing for an additional $1,000 scholarship, and passes for Cedar Point amusement park and the Sandusky County Fair also are awarded.

“This program gets the students engaged and gives them an opportunity to plan, design and create vehicles that they get to race while the community and supporters cheer them on,” said Myers. At the end of this year’s competition, Century will have awarded $27,000 in scholarships through the Green Box Derby.

AMBA honors this year’s Tooling Trailblazer

Century Die was recognized as the Tooling Trailblazer of the Year by Progressive Components’ Glenn and Don Starkey. Progressive Components is the sponsor of the $5,000 scholarship grant that accompanies the annual award, which may be donated to the industry-related educational program of the award winner’s choice. Century Die has chosen AIM Industries – a student-run, in-school fabrication business that will be launched for the 2019-20 school year at an area technical career center.

The grant will go toward the purchase of perishable tooling and accessories to equip the lab. “The 5,000 sq. ft. lab is scheduled for renovation, equipment is being procured, an instructor will be hired and students will apply for the 15 positions available,” explained Myers. “After three years of planning and strategizing, we are excited to see this come to fruition!”

According to Myers, AIM is the largest pipeline for exposing students to the industry. “It’s a great opportunity for these kids. Many of them are not necessarily looking to go to a four-year college following graduation. They’re looking toward local community colleges or the workforce, and we’ve been doing our best to work with and help them along the way for many years,” he explained.

At AIM Industries, students will have opportunities that extend beyond the typical college experience. “It’s an awesome internship in a sense,” he explained. “These kids will spend a few years learning and gaining valuable experience in a skills trade, and they’ll get paid while they do.”

For Myers, this kind of “skills trade college” is important for exposing younger generations to industries they might otherwise be unfamiliar with or have no chance to explore.

“I’ve been in the trade now for more than 40 years,” he stated. “I started an apprenticeship program in 1978. I don’t have a college degree, and still I’m part owner and general manager of a successful company. These younger kids need to know that they can go another route. That’s our goal.”

When asked what receiving the Tooling Trailblazer Award means to him, Myers responded, “We’re very honored. It’s incredible to be awarded something like this from our peers for something that we have a passion for. It makes us feel great to be acknowledged this way and to know that we’re doing good things.”