Power plant job leads to new career

September 3, 2013

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Michelle Laucke

Some people know at an early age what they want to do when they grow up. Others, like Michelle Laucke, want to try everything and find their way through process of elimination.  She changed her major every semester before earning a bachelor ’s degree in social science and psychology. Ultimately, “It took working at a power plant to find my niche,” Michelle said.

After working with a district attorney’s office as a legal secretary and later a victim witness specialist for 14 years, Michelle knew she needed a change and took a temporary job at the Weston Power Plant site near Wausau, Wisconsin. Wisconsin Public Service was in the process of building Weston 4, a state-of-the-art power plant that uses clean coal technologies.

Michelle’s position allowed her to focus on work she’d never encountered before; meeting with vendors for everything from turbines, to valves, a once-through boiler system and even heating systems. “I was enthralled with how things were put together and asked myself ‘Why didn’t I know about this?’”

When the temp job ended, Michelle was unemployed, but with a mission. Fifteen years out of college and a newcomer to online learning, Michelle enrolled in the engineering program in 2009. She approached it head on, forgoing a social life to focus on school, work, and family.

To strengthen her credentials, Michelle interned in Plover, Wisconsin, at Pointe Precision, a manufacturer of aerospace components. As a quality engineering intern, she immediately applied what she was learning from her courses, and was hired full-time as a production control specialist six months before graduation. She was recently promoted to master production planner.

“I pull all of my degree into this job. I absolutely love it,” she said. “It was like someone made this just for me. It’s surreal in a way.”

With coursework behind her, Michelle has resumed social activities and has returned to the other career she loves: breeding and selling straight Egyptian Arabian horses for her business, Vudu Magic Arabians in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

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