Following in his Father’s Footsteps

When Mike Raether began his career at 1901 Inc. as a Sheet Metal Apprentice 25 years ago, he did not know that his coworkers would become a second family for him and that one day, he would truly make work a family affair. Mike’s son, Dylan, started working at 1901 Inc. three years ago when he started his Sheet Metal Apprenticeship and began the journey of following in his father’s footsteps.

Mike started his career as a mechanic in the Army. When he was discharged four years later, he enrolled in classes at Madison College for mechanic school.

“After I did an informational interview at a local auto dealership, they said they would hire me after I went to school and bought all my tools for $8 an hour,” explained Mike. “At that time, I knew I wanted to make more than that after two years of school, not to mention the cost of tools I needed to buy. I talked to my twin brother, who was already an apprentice in the sheet metal trade and was interested in this and what compensation was available for that.”

Over the last 25 years, Mike has worked his way from Apprentice to Journeyworker to Foreman to his current role as a Project Manager.

“My fondest memories I have is all of the excellent people I have worked with over the years,” shared Mike. “I have a LOT of respect for the foremen, workers, and mentors that I have worked with over the years. I remember the first project I was on in the field; I had never been on a scissors lift before, and this project, all the ductwork was 50-60 feet in the air. It was an adjustment to deal with heights.”

Mike Raether (right) and his son, Dylan, on the job.

When Dylan approached his dad about working in the trades, Mike welcomed the opportunity with open arms.

“I am very proud of him wanting to pursue a career in this trade as well,” said Mike. “This trade is a great career, that we can have pride in ourselves for what we can accomplish.”

Dylan explained, “I approached him after seeing him work so hard at a company that he loves and is proud of, and it made me want to do the same.”

While growing up, Dylan watched his dad’s hard work and it inspired him to want to do the same.

“He was always building and repairing things, and I wanted to learn how to do it myself,” explained Dylan. “I enjoy working with my hands and learning how to make things out of sheet metal. He has taught me a lot over the years, and it’s nice to show him what I’ve learned.”

What is it like for the father-son duo to be working on the same project at 1901 Inc.?

“Yes, Dylan has been on a few of my projects,” said Mike. “He has done great, and we have an understanding that at work it is business, and we leave it at that. Dylan, as well as anyone I work with, I want them to succeed, no matter apprentice or journeyman.”

Dylan echoed his father when it comes to keeping work and home separate. When they do talk shop at home, it is usually regarding what to do if there is a problem on a project. One thing is for sure, Dylan does not shy away from asking for advice.

“When I haven’t done something before and have questions, I do ask him for advice,” said Dylan.

The main advice that Mike shares with his son, and all of the apprentices that he works with, “is to get to work 10 minutes early each day, listen first rather than talk, and absorb everything that the people you work for can show you. The sky is the limit for them.”

One of the projects worked on by the Raethers at 1901 Inc.

Mike also shared that someone interested in the Sheet Metal industry needs to work as hard as they can and learn as much as they can.

“Do not think of it as another job,” explained Mike. “Work hard and strive for your best, and rewards will follow.”

As a third year Sheet Metal Apprentice, Dylan is enjoying his job and the people he works with at 1901 Inc. There is nothing that he does not like about his career choice thus far. He enjoys seeing the project initially on a blueprint, then fabricating it, and finally seeing the completed project.

Watching his son succeed in his apprenticeship is just the tip of the iceberg for Mike.

“This is a great career,” shared Mike. “With hard work, they can create a great career for themselves and provide a decent living for their family. I look forward to seeing how (Dylan’s) career will blossom now and after his apprenticeship.”

As Dylan continues to progress in his apprenticeship, he envisions his future as a Foreman and running work. Then, maybe down the line, he will become a Project Manager, just like his dad.

For more information on apprenticeships, visit the following websites:
Mechanical Industries Center’s website
Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards’ website
Sheet Metal Local 18’s website