When high school teacher Thomas Backes passed out Industry Consortium for Advanced Technical Training (ICATT) apprenticeship applications to his students at Cudahy High School in Cudahy, Wisc., he encouraged his students to really consider the career opportunity before them. As Backes walked through his classroom full of teenagers from the community outside of Milwaukee, his eyes zeroed in on Nicholas Christensen. “I could see this kid really had potential because he has great mechanical engineering and people skills.”
Christensen says he barely knew about apprenticeships, but at the time he was not familiar with the ICATT Apprenticeship Program, the leading apprenticeship program fully benchmarked on the German Dual Education System for high-tech manufacturers and companies with complex technologies or logistics. He credits Backes with giving him the nudge he needed to believe in himself and apply.
“I had always been geared toward shop classes in school and I knew I wanted to work in a hands-on setting and gain skills for an in-demand profession,” recalls Christensen. Little did he know, filling out that application would soon change his life thanks to the persistence of his high school teacher and the ICATT Apprenticeship Program.
Christensen is now in his fourth semester of his apprenticeship training at Krones Inc. in Franklin, Wisc.
He, along with all ICATT apprentices, is earning a debt-free associate degree and receiving an industry-aligned education combined with hands-on training.
Krones Inc. is the North American subsidiary of Krones AG, headquartered in Neutrabling, Germany. With over 100 locations across the globe, Krones is a leading manufacturer of lines for filling beverages in cans as well as plastic and glass bottles. Christensen says the hands-on training he is receiving at Krones through his ICATT apprenticeship makes it abundantly clear he made the right career choice when he submitted his application in his high school class.
“My goal is to become a very knowledgeable traveling service technician for Krones,” says Christensen. Backes has no doubt his former student will succeed in that endeavor and firmly believes the ICATT Apprenticeship Program is a major reason why.
“I will never put one of my students in a spot that I don’t feel they would do a good job,” explains Backes, who is currently in his 41st year of teaching. “I have always been a supporter of the trade industries and apprenticeships, and I really like ICATT because there is a strong commitment to a stable career with upward mobility. ICATT views it as a team effort by involving the educators, the students, the ICATT apprentices and the Network Companies; that partnership mentality translates to success all around.”
Christensen and Backes both credit the counseling department at Cudahy High School for supporting and promoting the ICATT Apprenticeship Program. School leaders have made it a mission to ensure students and their parents know opportunities are abundant for those who may not want to follow a traditional four-year university path. By working with ICATT, many students are finding success in places they may not have even dreamed of.
“I’m pushing to show our students there are really good careers out there in manufacturing, electrical, plumbing, construction, welding, and all of the trades. These kids are going to fill the positions we’re going to need in the next century.”
While Christensen is enjoying his time in the ICATT Apprenticeship Program and at Krones, he also stays in contact with Backes and continues to travel back to his former classroom at Cudahy High School to visit with students who now sit where he once did. He wants to pass along what he’s learned to other students who are starting to consider their options after high school.
“Mr. Backes says his passion is his students and he’s trying to help them become successful. I’ve learned that I can also help others by talking about my experience with ICATT. It’s a great opportunity.”