AMBA Paves Path for Emerging Leadership in US Manufacturing

By Rachael Pfenninger, director of strategic execution, AMBA

In 2018, AMBA launched the AMBA Emerging Leaders Network, a program that provides professional development opportunities to innovative, creative and dedicated young professionals from across all AMBA member companies. These up-and-coming individuals come from all over the country and all areas of business and are defined primarily by their pursuit of a path toward leadership. Today, the Emerging Leaders Network – with the help of its advisory board – has played an integral role in the advancement of the professional development of over 150 up-and-coming professionals in AMBA’s community. This focused growth on the next generation not only is exciting but is imperative to the long-term survival of the domestic mold building industry.

To continue advancing the professional development of emerging leadership, the AMBA Emerging Leaders Rising Star Award was established to honor and celebrate the accomplishments of those either new to the US mold manufacturing community and/or their current roles. Characteristics exemplified by the Emerging Leaders Rising Star Award nominees include a focus on integrity and accountability, adaptability and agility, leadership and initiative, collaboration and empathy and a desire for growth.

The winner of the inaugural 2024 Emerging Leaders Rising Star Award was presented to Nick VanderZwaag of Legacy Precision Molds in early March at AMBA Conference 2024. To read about VanderZwaag’s journey as an emerging leader, visit page 11. AMBA is proud to have received eight nominations – all of which exemplify the characteristics of this award. In addition to VanderZwaag, a closer look at the seven nominees include:

1. Nick Ernst, Dynamic Group

Nick Ernst

Nick Ernst is the first “graduate” of the Dynamic Group’s apprenticeship program. Although a quiet observer, he is willing to step out of the one-on-one comfort zone he prefers and is quick to absorb instruction. Upon completion of the program, a new role, flex specialist, was created to foster Ernst’s continued skill development and to leverage his abilities wherever needed to meet the shifting schedule demands of the entire toolroom. Ernst has taken on additional mentorship responsibilities to help cultivate the next generation of mold manufacturers.

2. Scott Anderson, Franchino Mold & Engineering

Scott Anderson

Scott Anderson is a driven individual who holds several qualifications, including his Journeyman Machinist, Moldmaker and Design Card. He has held a variety of positions at Franchino Mold and has embraced his most recent role in project management with character and humility. Through exemplification of key qualities, including professionalism, an ability to be detail-oriented and a willingness to share and apply his knowledge, he has earned the trust of the shop floor and communicates well with peers and customers.

3. Angel Hernandez, Matrix Plastic Products, Inc.

Angel Hernandez

Angel Hernandez has been involved in the moldmaking industry since high school as a student in Leyden’s Metals program, and continually advocates for the industry through educational channels. He regularly volunteers at local high school career fairs and builds a great rapport with students. Through his initiative, he has become a critical “go-to” leader in multiple areas within the company’s three-shift operation, and his efforts have been instrumental in initiatives to minimize downtime and increase capacity.

4. Jonny Salter, TK Mold & Engineering

Jonny Salter

Jonny Salter started in the skilled trades back in 2014 and has worked his way from training on the manual boring mill to CNC programming and mold design. He has shown tremendous tenacity and grit, which has led to him taking on a leadership role at a young age while simultaneously completing his journeyman training and starting a family. He regularly impacts individual areas and the shop as a whole through such efforts as the creation of workload capacity tools, process improvements and the implementation of key principles drawn from the EOS framework.

5. Noah Anderson, Wepco Plastics

Noah Anderson

Although, he joined the US mold manufacturing industry just two years ago, Noah Anderson already has made an impact. In addition to his professional development through AMBA events and the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, he drives student engagement through facility tours and industry events, like the recent plant tour workshop hosted by the AMBA Emerging Leaders Network. Also, Anderson has spearheaded 5S efforts in the toolroom, always is willing to “do more” and embodies the mantra of “Never Stop Improving.”

6. Victoria Rooke, Westminster Tool

Victoria Rooke

Victoria Rooke currently is responsible for CNC machining, inspecting, team improvements, job processing and project management support. As a shop floor leader, she not only leads by example but also motivates and inspires the team daily. She has stepped up to participate in a variety of panels at various manufacturing events, drive community engagement and has been an advocate for women in manufacturing.

7. MJ Belmont, Westminster Tool

MJ Belmont

MJ Belmont is an active contributor to both technical and professional skill development – inside and outside the company. Internally, he currently serves in a mentorship and training role, while externally, he is a frequent collaborator with Moldex3D Moldflow Simulation Software, helping other machine shops utilize this technology to troubleshoot moldmaking risks in the design phase. Belmont exemplifies leadership and a commitment to learning through his willingness to share knowledge with others, an innate ability to adapt in any technical field and an openness to peer collaboration.

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