Andrew Grafelman, Nicolet College
With four and a half years in the U.S. Army and four years as an army civilian police officer, Andrew Grafelman has served his country well. So, it seems fitting that he is now being supported by the GI Bill to attend Nicolet College to start a new career.
Originally, Andrew thought his career would be in law enforcement. After high school, he earned both an associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice. However, when he graduated from college, he was unable to find a job as a municipal police officer. He was caught in the familiar scenario that he did not have experience, and most open positions wanted people who already had police work in their backgrounds.
That led Andrew to the army, where he served from September 2004 to February 2009 as a crewman on tanks, and had one deployment to Iraq for nearly a year in 2006. He reached the rank of sergeant before a torn ACL led to his medical discharge.
Andrew then found work as a police officer patrolling the Joint Systems Manufacturing Plant in Ohio, where they refurbish M1 tanks. That position was going along fine for Andrew until a 2012 federal budget cut led to areduction in the army’s police force and cost Andrew his job. At that point, Andrew decided it was time to return home to Rhinelander, Wisc., to rethink his career.
Nicolet College was a natural choice for Andrew, not only because of its convenient location and because it is where he earned his associate’s degree, but also because it started offering a new Industrial Mechanical Technician (IMT) diploma program in January 2013, which offered him a new career. He also decided to specialize in a skilled trade, and started in Nicolet’s Welding Technician program in summer 2013.
Even though Andrew didn’t finish both programs until this past May, he had already started a full-time job in April. He is working for Caterpillar in Prentice, Wisc., where they manufacture logging equipment. He said he is using both his IMT and welding training in his new position, and he praises the Nicolet instructors for having high standards in the work they expect from students.
Andrew said one of the benefits of the programs at Nicolet is that the instructors allow students to start a full-time job in their final semester, if the opportunity arises, and they have provided Andrew with the flexibility to test out of some of his classes.
Looking ahead at his career, Andrew is excited that manufacturing allows him to take an engineer’s drawing and turn it into something tangible. Down the road, he would also like to become a certified welding inspector.