Many people and organizations were involved in the promotion and development of the new Career and Advancement Center at Baldwyn High School, but as those heavily involved in the project speak of its development, one figure is often mentioned as being pivotal to the project’s success: Kim Crumbie.
The general manager of Auto Parts Manufacturing Mississippi, Crumbie played a key role in the founding and creation of Baldwyn’s new vocational training facility. Officials held a ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony for the building on Oct. 23, and students from the area are already starting to learn the advanced manufacturing and furniture manufacturing curriculum.
“Without the Good Lord and Kim Crumbie, we wouldn’t be where we are with the vocational center,” Baldwyn Schools Superintendent Jason McKay said. “We were blessed with Mr. Crumbie being in the City of Baldwyn. We may have had an idea of where we wanted to go in terms of vocational education, but we didn’t have the vision nor the plan. Mr. Crumbie instigated and provided those plans that are giving us an opportunity to have the building and, more importantly, to have the programs in place to help our students for years to come.”
Center Director Danny Ramsey agrees.
“Without him it wouldn’t have happened,” Ramsey said. “Superintendent McKay had the vision. Mr. Crumbie had a vision himself that he was able to share with us to bring this together. We’re very fortunate to have him and his organization in our community. What we’re going to have here is because this man had the vision to help us put together what we need for this community. We’re very blessed.”
Ramsey said he is amazed at what Crumbie has been able to bring to the program with his leadership and attention to detail, as Ramsey said Crumbie has continuously fine-tuned his plans throughout the process.
“I’m not sure this man ever sleeps,” Ramsey said. “His mind is constantly working toward improving. He would come in with concepts, and then he would come back with improvements to them. “
A long time coming
The idea for the vocational center goes back a few years. While it may have been kick-started in Baldwyn in 2016, Crumbie has been working around the growth and development of manufacturing training for almost a decade, and it started in 2008 in Georgetown, Kentucky.
“I started looking into why we were losing so many 18 to 25 year olds, leaving manufacturing,” Crumbie said. “What I did was try to figure out what was the root cause of all those people leaving. So we started working together at Toyota in Kentucky on programs where we could work with the community. And we did that, and we found out it wasn’t that those people didn’t want to work; it was that sometimes they didn’t understand what manufacturing was.”
With that knowledge in hand, Crumbie said his team began working on a program to stem the losses and better prepare the workforce.
“We created a program called “HOPE: Helping Others Prepare for Employment” in 2012,” Crumbie said. “We reached out to the communities within 60 miles of the Toyota plant (in Georgetown). We worked with local church groups and civic groups and support groups to get people to come to the training. And as we started to first of all test their understanding and find the gaps in their understanding, we then started to teach them about manufacturing. As a result, we were able to get more people hired into manufacturing. So we thought, ‘Wow, that has some base; that has a lot of benefits to the community.’”
Crumbie said his motivation for wanting to improve the training of the local workforce was partly professional, but also partly personal.
“My overall personal goal after that was, ‘how can I get more students like my daughters into manufacturing? They’re girls; they don’t want to go into manufacturing. All they know about is sparks,’” Crumbie said. “As a result we started to try to define and engage them in the manufacturing process, and they became interested in the process. Even one of my daughters worked at the plant in Kentucky. So, it was about engaging them in the process, explaining what was going on, what the process does, understanding what their weaknesses were and accentuating those weak points.”
Moving Forward to Mississippi
Crumbie began to be introduced to local and area leaders upon his arrival in Baldwyn with APMM. In 2014 and 2015, he and other APMM leaders met with Baldwyn Schools leaders, with Crumbie saying the local school system invited APMM to work with the district. That got Crumbie thinking.
“We met with Mayor James, Mr. McKay and others at the Central Office and they said anytime you get a chance, come back out in the community and we want you to support us,” Crumbie said. “That was in 2014. In 2015, they said the same thing. I said, ‘I want to go to the school, I want to become engaged and involved in the community.’ Then last year I met with them and Sen. Chad McMahan, and as a result we got a group of the people, including the school board, over to our plant, we showed them through our plant and they thought, ‘this is really good.’ We also showed them our dojo, and they said, ‘we want a dojo.’ We didn’t really think so much of it, but we started to talk more and more about that. We were able to start our vision around that time. We had meetings with public officials as well as school officials, and we were able to get everyone on board in May of 2016.”
McKay said from the beginning Crumbie was not only supportive, but also a primary leader in guiding the Baldwyn Schools district toward the development of the CAC.
“He was heavily involved from the start in all phases of it, from helping with the design of their part of the building so we’re not wasting time, energy and money and making sure that what we’ve built the building to fit the exact needs for our students to know what to do when they get out to APMM working one day,” McKay said. “And he wrote a very detailed curriculum and incorporated a lot of life skills in it. He’s given us a very detailed plan in what was uncharted waters for us, and he provided the plan that enabled all of this to happen. He’s been great for our community.”
Dual role facility
One-half of the building is geared toward advanced manufacturing training, where McKay said Crumbie’s influence will be most felt. The other half of the building will focus on furniture manufacturing. McKay said he did not want to diminish the work, support and influence of local furniture leaders HM Richards and Southern Motion in their help with the furniture manufacturing program, as their support has also been pivotal. Ramsey echoed those sentiments.
“We’re also blessed to have the furniture partners; they have contributed greatly,” Ramsey said. “But Mr. Crumbie and his partners, these ladies here, they have put in hours and hours of work into putting this all together. Superintendent McKay wanted to do something for our kids. Mr. Crumbie had the vision, and Mr. McKay said, ‘what Mr. Crumbie needs, that’s what we’ll do.’”
The shops of both departments will not see a lot of activity in this first year of operation as students begin to learn the curriculum of the classes, under the direction of instructor Morgan Fisher. As they learn, though, the shops will come alive in year two. On the advanced manufacturing side, students will begin to, “put all the skills together that they’ll learn,” Ramsey said. “They’ll begin to be mass-producing little wagons they’ll be learning to build.”
The right thing to do
The goal is to prepare students to go from building wagons to building Toyota Corollas and the parts used in their manufacture. Crumbie said he believed it was incumbent upon him and APMM to take a leadership role in training the next generation of manufacturing workers.
“It is a part of our corporate social responsibility as a manufacturer to help our students,” Crumbie said. “We have a product we want to sell in the community. We need people to help us build that product to sell. We have a debt to those people to train them and show value to them.”
And the dojo the school board members and leaders requested? APMM made it happen. The company donated an $80,000 robot to the center recently, and it is installed in the shop of the advanced manufacturing side of the CAC. Crumbie said he sees great value in students learning to work with such technology.
“The word dojo: The meaning is ‘the human way,’” Crumbie said. “Some people call it a dojo; I call it a human and mindset development center, because we want to show value to those people and as we prosper we want them to prosper as well.”