Veteran settles into his dream job after switching careers

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Getting a job with nothing but a high school diploma can be difficult. Starting a career without a high school diploma can be nearly impossible. That's the challenge many of our military members face when they leave the service -- but one veteran was able to turn his Army experience into opportunity.

"Ever since I was 10 years old, my grandpa brought me to my uncle's welding shop, and after seeing that atmosphere, you know, guys welding, grinding metal, flames -- it just seemed like a really cool job to do and I was like 'man, I want to do that,'" Jeremy Jurkiewicz said.

But life's blueprint for Jurkiewicz put him on a different path out of high school. At the age of 19, he sought to wear the badge of a police officer. He started by joining the Army's Military Police Corps.

"I enlisted to serve and deploy and just for a job," Jurkiewicz said.

For the next three years, he experienced the life of a cop, including a year-long deployment to Afghanistan. It was during this time Jurkiewicz says he discovered policing wasn't for him.

His love of welding was reignited when he left active service, but starting a new career from scratch is no easy task. Like many of his peers who are former military, Jurkiewicz faced a choice -- jump into the job search with what experience and education he had -- or retrain himself.

"If there`s something that you want to do, pursue it.  Go to school or look online, see what classes they have to offer.  Something sparks your interest, go for it. Pursue it," Jurkiewicz said.

Jurkiewicz credits his motivation and mettle to his time in the Army. It's that mettle which helped him to get into "Welding Boot Camp" at Gateway Technical College in Racine. He eventually graduated, and landed a job at Metalworld Incorporated.

"When they talk about a skills gap, it's not so much the hard skills as far as finding guys that know how to weld, like to work with their hands. It's really guys that are willing to do that five days a week on a week-to-week basis," Metalworld Inc. President Gary Meier said.

"Anyone can get a job, but not everyone can get a career and a career that you want to do and you love doing every day.  I don't get up every day and be like 'oh I gotta go to work.' I'm excited to go to work, work, learn and progress in my skills and just become the best welder and fabricator I can become," Jurkiewicz said.

Jurkiewicz is still serving as an Army Reservist. His welding career has progressed since he last spoke with FOX6 News. He no longer works at Metalworld in Racine -- after taking a job with Compo Steel Products in Milwaukee.

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