by Pamela Young, Published February 08, 2012
Antoni Wroblewski began working at Ford Motor Company's Ypsilanti plant when he was only 20 years old. By 22, he was a skilled tradesman, working as an UAW Ford electrician, providing electricity during construction and maintenance, and dealing with other electrical issues.
Now 32 years old, Wroblewski, is a regional economist at Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn. His responsibilities include analyzing reports, preparing presentations for external and internal customers, and helping senior economists. He also follows regional economic data, such as inflation, gas prices, unemployment, and employment rates for the U.S. and Michigan.
How did he make the jump from electrician to economist? It took a buyout, a solid plan, and a desire to earn a college degree.
"I took a buyout package that included half salary, full benefits and four years of tuition up to $15,000 a year," said Wroblewski. His wife, Sarah, who worked on the assembly line, took a lump sum payment.
Wroblewski looked at several important factors when accepting the buyout. One of his biggest challenges was determining his next steps.
"You'll never consider everything that might happen, but my wife and I had a plan A, plan B and plan C, and we planned four years in advance," Wroblewski said. "Many people I still talk to from my days in the factory have told me there aren't many success stories among those who took buyouts. People didn't think two to three years into the future."
The next step was extensively researching which degrees provide a good income. He took an economics class at a local community college and loved it, and that's when everything clicked.
"Once I decided to leave Ford, school became a full-time job." His hard work soon earned him a bachelor's degree, and Wroblewski then enrolled in Eastern Michigan University's graduate program in applied economics.
While enrolled in graduate school, Wroblewski told his professors that he was looking for a job in economics.
"I made it known to my professors that I was looking, and that coming out of a union job, Ford was a part of me," he said. "My faculty adviser at Eastern, Dr. David Crary, provided me with a contact in Ford's economics department and a letter of recommendation."
After interviewing with the company, Wroblewski was hired to fill a temporary position even before he graduated. The dual roles were challenging.
"I had to balance my classes with working as a temporary economist at Ford," he said. "It was very difficult juggling work and classes that semester, but I was able to complete the semester."
Once he graduated from Eastern Michigan, Ford offered Wroblewski a full-time position as a regional economist.
"I love my job," Wroblewski said "I've been here for over a year and I've never had a bad day of work. It can be tough and tiring, but I'm very, very happy."