As a home-schooled student growing up near the shores of Lake Michigan in Racine, Wisc., Daniel Crawford was used to thinking for himself and learning at his own pace. It wasn’t until he got the results of his high school equivalency exam that his confidence began to soar.

“Since I never went to public school, I couldn’t really compare myself to other people my age,” says Crawford. “When I scored really well on the exam, it was rewarding, and it made me believe in myself and what I could be.”

Crawford scored extremely high on the science portion of the exam, so when he happened to meet and have a conversation with a department head at Krones Inc. in Franklin, Wisc., it piqued his interest. Krones is a world leader in the beverage and liquid-food industry and processes millions of bottles, cans and specially shaped bottles every day.

The timing couldn’t have been better for Crawford to have the chance encounter with the Krones employee in 2017. Krones had recently joined the Industry Consortium for Advanced Technical Training (ICATT) network in the Milwaukee area, and Crawford’s plans quickly shifted.

“I was mainly trying to get myself in the door at Krones,” admitted Crawford. “But I was told the company was trying this new apprenticeship program where they’d help me earn a debt-free associate degree, receive hands-on training, and obtain national and international credentials. It was amazing.”

Crawford became one of the first at Krones to take part in 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. The program helps its network companies in high-tech manufacturing and logistics create a sustainable workforce solution that provides a pipeline of talent over time. ICATT Apprentices, like Crawford, are recruited, qualified and guaranteed to learn the skills that companies need and want.

Crawford is currently in his second year of his apprenticeship at Krones and aspires to be a training service technician in the blow molding department which specializes in the process of making PET plastic bottles. He has one more year to complete his schooling at Waukesha County Technical College, also a member of the ICATT network. Following his formal college education, Crawford will fulfill his two-year commitment to Krones in order to receive more service work, training and hands on experience.

“The trades are the most important thing you can learn in order to work in an industrial field. And apprenticeships are the best of both worlds,” says Crawford. “You can get a formal education while receiving on-the-job training. My schooling is paid for as part of the ICATT Apprenticeship Program, I get paid for my work at Krones, and I have a career lined up for me after college. I couldn’t ask for more.”

Crawford was a little older than most apprentices when he started down his path with ICATT and Krones and says the program has helped him grow as a person. At 23 years of age he does recommend starting an apprenticeship as early as possible, although it’s never too late.

When asked if he could give any advice to those considering walking down the ICATT apprenticeship route like he did, Crawford did not hesitate to answer. “Just because you don’t have any experience in a certain trade does not mean you shouldn’t go for it. You have to tell yourself you can do it! ICATT, the company you’re working with and your school will help you learn exactly what you need and you’ll succeed just like me!”

To learn if an ICATT apprenticeship is right for you or someone you know, click here.