Skilled Trades Education with Kratos Votech: The Importance of Early Exposure

David Lathiel, founder of Kratos Votech, at his classes' graduation ceremony

David Lathiel is the founder of the technical training school, Kratos Votech, based in Northern Virginia. With an extensive and diverse career history, David’s experiences have led him back to one of his first passions: technical education. David and his team have made it their mission to spread awareness about careers in the skilled trades and provide early exposure to trades education for youth.

Discovering Your Passion

I’m a veteran of the United States Air Force, a former munitions systems apprentice, and I hold a degree in biochemistry. Regardless of my many career pursuits, with the knowledge I have now about the skilled trades, I constantly ponder why trades education was never offered to us in school growing up. 

Instead, there was this huge push for us to take the ACT, SAT, or ASVAB. We were told we wouldn’t be successful if we didn’t attend college. As an adult, I’m now aware that the best interests of the students were often not considered. Schools receive incentives to push the college-for-all mentality, and the more college-bound students there are, the more funding schools receive. 

During my freshman year in high school, I took a drafting class and learned about drawing schematics and blueprints. Since I had no bearings, I drew a layout similar to the house I grew up in. I learned what symbols meant and used a plastic guide to simplify the project revisions. I enjoyed working with my hands and looked forward to taking the second part of the class, only to be severely disappointed when I returned my sophomore year. 

The class was gone, and so was the instructor. The building where the class was taught had been torn down. I often wondered what my life would have been like if I had all four years invested in drafting. Perhaps it would’ve led to HVAC and electrical projects, or maybe, it would’ve led to a career in auto body or engineering.

After that, nothing else piqued my interest academically, and I never fully engaged in anything else the same way. That is, until my senior year in high school, when I took a marine biology course. With that experience, I discovered an affinity for all things biology and chemistry. It felt great to find a new passion to fill the two-year void left by drafting.

A Best Kept Secret: Earning Potential of Trades Careers

Fast forward a few years, and I became the manager at a local dry cleaner. 

One day, our elevator went down, and we had to call in an elevator repair specialist. When the repair team arrived, they spent about two days fixing it. When speaking to one of the young men about his trade, I asked how much he made an hour. The workers looked at each other as if I had just asked a question that required top security clearance. Finally, the young man looked at me and said, “We make an average of $100/hr.” My brain experienced a spasm, and I nearly fell over. I was in complete disbelief.

Our interaction left me wondering, what school did he go to? I’d never heard of an elevator repairman as a profession before. My entire life shattered like a glass house of lies hit by a cinder block of truth. Why was I just finding out there are jobs out there that make buckets of money to fix the everyday functions of our lives?

The Trades Never Go Out of Style

Despite the evolution of our workspaces, the smart advancements of our houses, or the degree of artificial intelligence that helps us as a society, some things remain true: we love our comforts of central air, potable water, and power to run our gadgets. 

Truckers run this country. Being an electrician is a job that will never go out of style. Plumbers have always proven to be relevant. Having HVAC skills pays the bills. Again, I wonder why we were never told these truths in school. 

I never intended to own a trade school, but now I make it my daily mission to expose as many people as possible to the non-traditional paths of education, not just what we have been conditioned to know as a society. It’s also very important to make schools that don’t have programs (or had them stripped away) aware that we exist.

At Kratos Votech, we offer HVAC, electrical, plumbing, welding, machining, and robotics programs. Since these programs were not on the table for me as a high school student, I wanted to do my part to make them accessible to people today. 

When opening Kratos Votech, I wanted to create a space where students could explore the trades to discover what they want to do in life. A place where learning through your own two hands, taking things apart, and putting them back together again was seen as more valuable than scoring well on standardized testing. 

Within these walls, you can build skills and develop confidence in your abilities. It is here where you begin to gain respect in your chosen craft and pave the way to earn great money for yourself and your family. 

Leveraging Technology & Future Plans for Kratos Votech

In 2022, we partnered with Interplay Learning to bring simulation and VR technology to our programs. Through on-demand, immersive learning, we engage our students in the trades like we never could before. 

This year we will also begin offering free boot camps for students to explore trades careers. In partnership with Interplay and their new Career Exploration solution, we will help job seekers determine the appropriate trades career path that makes the most sense for them. They will be able to see the basic requirements and get a hands-on understanding of what it may be like to work in that trade.

Another initiative on the horizon is to offer a work-study program. Trade program price points may be high for the average person, and it doesn’t help to expose the student to something they cant access. By partnering with local employers, we are creating opportunities for our students to learn while they earn to get a taste for their chosen trade in entry-level helper roles. 

We at Kratos Votech are making a difference, one student at a time. By helping to expose students to the trades, we hope to normalize technical careers and contribute to growing the next generation of trades professionals. 

I hope that one day, our students will tell a tale of their high school experiences in a positive light. Instead of memories of pressure and confusion around their career path, they will reminisce about all the cool opportunities and exposure they had to the technical careers that helped to revolutionize their lives.