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Automation Systems Technology Grad Advances in Career, Mentors Students

With nearly 20 years of experience in manufacturing, Leif Gabrielsen decided a return to school as an adult student would give him the skills needed to advance at his company. Gabrielsen has worked at Empire Level – Division of Milwaukee Tool Corp. since 1998, in roles as general laborer, pad printing/assembly technician and blown film extruder operator, a position he had held for 13 years. While in that role, he decided to pursue a degree at WCTC in Automation Systems Technology, starting in 2016; shortly after, he moved into the injection molding department as a setup technician at Empire Level.

“I found myself at a place where there wasn’t any more room for advancement. I talked with my manager, and he mentioned looking at WCTC for something that interested me,” Gabrielsen said. “The plant was going through some changes, and automation was becoming more common.”

Throughout his program at WCTC, Gabrielsen was able to apply what he was learning in his classes directly to his job.

“I went through the program and learned every machine [has] an automated process,” Gabrielsen said. “Every lesson is useful to any sort of technician working,” he said, noting the breadth of the program also deepened his understanding of injection molding processes, including hydraulic pneumatics and sensors, and programming logic, which has helped with troubleshooting machinery.

As a returning adult student, Gabrielsen said there were some challenges, but he soon found many students were just like him: older, working adults looking to gain skills.

“I felt the classes had a nice mix of experienced and less experienced students. It always seemed there was someone that was an expert at each topic and was always willing to help in class,” he said.

Gabrielsen excelled in his classes, and he earned the AST program award in May 2019, along with his associate degree.

Now a WCTC alumnus, he has plans to mentor AST students and help them with projects, including a popular robotic game housed at Discovery World in Milwaukee (although temporarily on hold due to the pandemic).

“I couldn’t be happier with the time I spent at WCTC. I find myself wanting to do more for the school,” he said.