Twenty-five years ago Rob and Pam Kreikemeier started R.K Aerials in Fremont with three employees in a 5,000-square-foot facility.
Over the years the company has grown to employ 80 people working in a 40,000-square-foot facility.
The Fremont business, which manufactures ladders for fire trucks around the world is connected to Rosenbauer, an Austria-based company with 10 world-wide manufacturing locations.
During a tour Thursday of the new welding lab at Fremont High School, the Kreikemeier’s were able to see firsthand the skills the students were developing and share their experience and advice with youth interested in a career in the trades.
Rob Kreikemeier said it was interesting to see what the students were doing because about half of his employees use the same skills the students are developing in the welding program.
“You guys are in a very good field because as you get older, you’re always going to have an opportunity for work,” he said. “Not everybody’s cut out to be a CPA. The workforce is, and is going to continue to be, in need of welders and machinists and people that can do programming on machines.
“These kind of jobs, the demand is out there,” Kreikemeier added. “The demand is out there today, and I feel like the demand is only going to get greater in the future.”
The FPS welding program was created through a public-private partnership between the school district, Metropolitan Community College and Valmont Industries to provide career opportunities for young people while creating a skilled workforce for local industry.
The five-course program is a dual credit program taught by Fremont High School and Metro instructors. Upon completion, students not only have high school and college credit, but an industry certificate that could help them get a foot in the door with manufacturers.
Pam Kreikemeier said not only are the jobs out there, but they are good paying jobs.
“I think the door is wide open for individuals to equal, match and exceed salaries of people that are going to four-year colleges,” she said.
Brad Ryun, industrial technology instructor at Fremont High School, said since the program began in August student interest has been phenomenal. Classes, he said, were filled as soon as they were offered.
The response has been so great neighboring school districts have come to tour the lab, and some of their students have expressed interest in enrolling in the program.
As for the Fremont students, Ryun said oftentimes they arrive to school early and are waiting for him to to open the lab so they can get to work.
Ryun said some of the skills students are learning are MIG welding in the flat, vertical, horizontal and overhead position on 3/16- to 3/8-inch steel. They’re cutting different sizes of metal, channel iron, angle iron, and coping it so it fits together properly. They are also learning to cut different designs in metal using different techniques.
“They’re getting it a lot of different ways, and they’re really excelling at it,” Ryun said. “The big thing is that they’re held to industry standards. The tests they’re doing on their metal are the exact same tests they’d be given in an industry.”
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