We were thrilled to celebrate a significant milestone in the ICATT Apprenticeship Program’s history last Thursday – the graduation of our first-ever cohort of apprentices.

Our five graduates began the program in 2015, and they have worked hard to learn, grow, and develop as professionals in their field. The entire ICATT team, along with our partners and sponsors, is incredibly proud of every one of our new graduates:

  • Darnell Kaiser – Wieland Metals
  • Izidorius Laurinaitis – Felsomat
  • Chris Meyer – Scot Forge
  • Alexis Ojeda – WITTENSTEIN
  • Andrew Splett – Herrmann Ultrasonics

ICATT held the graduation ceremony during the International Manufacturing Technology Show 2018 at the McCormick Place convention facility.

The ICATT Apprenticeship Program, created by the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest (GACC Midwest) and the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA), has been supported by several influential organizations. These important supporters – the Joyce Foundation, the US Department of Labor,  Education Systems Center at Northern Illinois University, Harper College, and the US Department of Commerce – also joined us to honor our graduates and their families.

Mark Tomkins, President & CEO of GACC Midwest, commenced the ceremony, noting the significance of the graduates’ achievement.

“It’s hard to believe that only four years ago, ICATT was just a side project that we felt passionate about, launching with a few pioneering companies, who were soon joined by their first pioneering apprentices. Today, ICATT has grown to three states with 45 companies training 65 apprentices, with no end in sight to the growth,” Tomkins said. “Our team has also grown, now with a full-time team of 8 staff dedicated full-time to expanding the program. I’m grateful for all the support we’ve received, especially from the IMA.”

Jim Nelson, VP of the IMA, spoke words of encouragement to the new graduates, celebrating their accomplishments and forecasting their bright future.

“Your graduation from the ICATT Apprenticeship Program has set you up for success,” Nelson said. “This is a rigorous program that not many could complete. The theoretical, hands-on and company knowledge will provide you many opportunities throughout your career, and your international credentials provide you the opportunity to work in 35 countries around the world. You should be proud of your success – it is impressive.”

Mario Kratsch, VP of GACC Midwest and head of the ICATT Apprenticeship Program, conveyed his gratitude toward the ICATT Network Companies and the apprentices and their families.

“I’m grateful that these five pioneer companies believed in this program from the start,” Kratsch said. “They took a chance on it and believed in it. And I’m grateful to the parents who also took a leap of faith and entrusted us with their children. And finally, I’m grateful to the five graduates here today. I’m so proud of their accomplishments.”

One parent of the ICATT graduates expressed her sincere gratitude for the program.

“Three years ago when Andrew started the program, I was thrilled that he had an opportunity to put his talents to use in a way that excited him and fulfilled him. Now, I’m seeing all that hard work come to life at his graduation,” said Cathy Splett, mother to ICATT graduate. “I knew that the typical four-year college experience wasn’t the right fit for Andrew, and I am grateful that the ICATT Apprenticeship Program provided him all the tools he needs to have a successful career in high-tech manufacturing. I am so proud of all his hard work and very grateful for the ICATT team.”

The ICATT graduates expressed their excitement about the program and the valuable opportunities it has opened up for them. They said they are looking forward to starting a new chapter in their education and work journeys.

“The difference between this program and just going straight to college is you receive hands-on training,” said Darnell Kaiser, ICATT graduate. “This apprenticeship program, I believe, will help me further develop in the company, and help me also become more of a leader to anyone else who also joins the company.”

Learn more about the ICATT Apprenticeship Program.