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North Central Kansas Technical College's Tools & Tech 2016

FINDING A LIFELONG

FINDING A LIFELONG CAREER: Veteran Returns Home to Tend to Family Business 8 | North Central Kansas Technical College “A friend told Chris to “keep his pack going,” a military reference on not giving up. Chris Dreher | Carpentry/Cabinetmaking

Attending college wasn't part of a long-term plan for Chris Dreher. He graduated 12th grade, went to work, and then decided to follow in his parent’s footsteps. “I was in a dead-end job and needed a change of scenery, plus my parents were always encouraging me to join the service.” So Chris joined the Marines, and in his typical fashion, he went all in. He worked hard and tried to excel at everything he did. Chris picked up rank quickly and he started to develop a plan to remain enlisted. He had hopes of earning his way into the Marines security force, but when his father passed away his plans changed. “I knew the military would always be there, but I needed to be home with my family.” Coping with his father’s death, a friend encouraged Chris to, “keep his pack going,” a military reference for not giving up. To this day he uses the saying as a reminder to be a good example, especially to his three -year- old daughter, Deanna. So Chris kept his pack going back to Hays, Kansas. While back on the 30-day leave for his father’s funeral, he visited NCK Tech with a buddy who was already enrolled. It was then that Chris decided to take the Plumbing, Heating, and Air-Conditioning program. “The staff at NCK Tech helped me through a lot of the paperwork,” says Chris. “I just called them and asked them for help, they were great!” They helped make the transition easy, but that didn’t mean Chris was completely at ease. “I was scared to go to college,” Dreher says. “My family was very encouraging. I wasn’t a great student in high school and I wasn’t sure I could do it.” As he turned to his training and experience to help him, he gained confidence. “The military drills into you the importance of deadlines and discipline, which has served me well as a student and in everyday life.” Chris also learned something else that helped him succeed, the importance of asking questions. “I used to worry about what others might think if I asked a stupid question. Then I started to realize that most times others had the same question — they were just too afraid to ask.” Combining the lessons he took from the military with the strong work ethic he learned from his dad, Chris successfully completed his first program. Instead of going on to work in the field, he decided to pursue an Associate degree and his true passion, something he had learned alongside his father. He helped his dad with construction since he was eight years old, and although he didn't know it at the time, Chris discovered that he really wanted to be a carpenter. “I knew a little bit from working with my dad,” says Dreher, “but I learned even more while taking the Carpentry program.” The handson experience of actually building a home from the ground up was very beneficial, equipping Chris with a true understanding of the structural aspects of building and the fine details of finish work. "Now I can see things that I could never see before," said Dreher. Once Chris completed the Carpentry program, he didn’t stop there, as he knew if he wanted to be self-employed he should also learn more about managing a business. “I understood some accounting because of my responsibilities in the military, but these classes helped me learn about taxes, insurance, social security, mark-up, and accounting. Which helps you be more successful financially and to keep better relationships with your customers and your vendors," he stated. Before leaving NCK Tech, Chris graduated from three separate programs and earned two associate degrees. He enjoyed the atmosphere Chris with his father at NCK Tech and the ability to learn new skills and fine tune the ones he already had. "Everything I learned has helped me. I’d keep going if I could, it was definitely worth it," he advised. Chris is now back with his old connections in Hays, using the skills he acquired from the military and NCK Tech to work as an independent sub-contractor. He helps with remodels, assists in builds, lays flooring, inspects roofs, and more. He's now aspiring to obtain a certified contractor's license – because he wants to prove he knows how to do it right. "I might spend a little extra time doing things, but when I'm done I want the homeowner to know they have the best home that can be built,” he said with pride. Chris performs the work in his customers’ houses at least as good as what he would do in his own house. He offered, "Then I let my work speak for me. I know it’s the little details of the work you do that make it everlasting.” That’s the attitude of a true craftsman and something he knows his family, especially his late father, would be proud of. www.ncktc.edu | 9

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