Putting It All Together: First as a Welder, Now as an Engineer

Catching up with an MHEFI Scholarship Recipient


michael bretz

Michael Bretz is a mechanical engineer focused on maintaining a robust electrical and water grid so manufacturers, logistics and other companies can continue producing in a cost-efficient, sustainable way—but he took an unconventional journey to his current position.

“I was a nontraditional student when I began working on my mechanical engineering degree at the University of Southern Indiana,” said Bretz. “When I graduated high school, I attended a local community college to get a degree in industrial technology, and I studied welding.”

After working as a welder for five years, Bretz decided to pursue his engineering degree. Knowing the value of hands-on work experience to supplement classroom studies, he accepted co-op positions at Duke Energy and at Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Indiana while in school.

“During my Toyota co-op, I designed dollies to move door panels safely and easily in the welding section of the factory,” he said. Another key accomplishment while at Toyota was his design of a weld checker that is used to measure the safety and quality of the weld to provide information that can be used to improve the welding process.

After his co-op at Duke Energy and graduation, Bretz accepted a position at Duke Energy, where he applied his engineering and process improvement skills to energy-related solutions. In 2020, he accepted a position as a field engineer at Emerson and moved to Chicago.

Bretz is now living in Evansville, Indiana with his fiancée. “I spend 70-80% of my time on the road, so it is not necessary to live near the office,” he said. Evansville also is a good location to travel to clients throughout the Midwest, he added. While he enjoys his position as a field engineer, he is thinking about the future. “I have thought about pursuing an MBA and a position in project management in the next several years,” he said.

“I work directly with clients—engineers and frontline employees—to make sure the solution works for their needs,” said Bretz. His previous experience as a welder and as an engineering student working in a manufacturing facility helps in his current position, he said. “There is a mutual respect because I understand what goes on in a production job, and my designs reflect that.”

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