With machines whirring around him, Montez King feels at home. He started as a manufacturing work study, and now leads a national manufacturing nonprofit known as NIMS.
He believes apprenticeships, the opportunities he had, give kids a future.
“That kind of opportunity keeps them out of debt, puts them in a high paying job. These careers – you don’t need a four-year degree and you can make just as much money as those coming out of college with a four-year degree,” King said.
He’s seen it across the country, but has never seen Nebraska up close.
“I’m looking down from a plane, looking at corn fields,” he said with a laugh.
Scott Volk of MetalQuest in Hebron invited King to see the struggle companies like his have hiring skilled help.
“Manufacturers in general have a huge challenge, being in a rural area is even more of a challenge,” Volk said.
MetalQuest grows its own workforce, partnering with schools like Sandy Creek and Grand Island’s Career Pathways Institute.
Volk said, “He kept making the comment – this is college level stuff they’re doing in a tiny rural school. So if they can do that, everybody else in the state should be able to do it too.”
King was impressed by the schools he saw.
“Some of the work that’s happening out in these schools it’s awesome and it needs to be known across the nation,” he said.
King runs the National Institute for Metalworking Skills, helping set the standards to make sure students are ready for the workforce.
He also serves on a presidential task force.
“He has monthly meetings with the Secretary of Labor. He’s going to high levels and having conversations. It’s going to be great taking that back to Washington,” Volk said.
The next time he flies over, he’s got a story to tell.
“This is one trip I’ll always remember,” King said.