Alumni Spotlight: Q&A with Joe Lauer
It’s all about safety first at Menasha Packaging
As the Senior Director of Environmental Health and Safety for Menasha Packaging, Joe Lauer’s position involves many different responsibilities, but they all lead to the same goal of employee safety. Already in the workforce, Joe enrolled at FVTC as an adult student and completed the Safety Engineering Technology associate degree program.
Joe shares more about his job and how FVTC prepared him for his career.
Tell us about your role in Safety.
There are many distinct aspects and responsibilities of my role which include: ensuring we are compliant with all OSHA and environmental regulations and standards, oversight of all workers' compensation and developing strategies for continuous improvement in our overall safety culture. However, I would say my largest role is supporting our Environment, Health and Safety managers who are located at all our manufacturing facilities by making sure they have all the tools, resources and confidence possible to make our worksites the safest they can be.
What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is truly feeling like we as safety professionals are making a difference. Our employees are the most critical component of our business, and relentlessly pursuing our goal of every day sending them home to their families injury-free is an extremely rewarding feeling.
Why did you choose Fox Valley Technical College?
At the previous company I worked for, an opening came up for an hourly safety position, which I applied for and was fortunate to be selected. I quickly realized safety was an area I wanted a career in, and I started researching how I could get more knowledgeable in the area. I live in the Fox Cities area so when I found out FVTC offered a safety engineering program, I could not apply fast enough! Enrolling in the safety engineering program at FVTC was one of the most pivotal decisions in my career and it directly helped me grow in my success as a safety professional.
What did you enjoy most about FVTC?
I enjoyed the case studies we did in many of the classes. This helped me take what I had learned and apply it to real-life situations I was dealing with. Many of our assignments also needed to be done in real-life situations where I worked. For example, in our ergonomics class for a large assignment, we needed to make a significant ergonomic improvement in a work setting. Instead of writing a paper or answering questions on a test, I was able to get credit for an assignment by implementing an ergonomic solution that made my workplace safer.
Any highlights about this program you would like to share?
I enjoyed the flexibility of the online course structure, but also knowing that I could take classes in person if I wanted to. There were some classes I felt more comfortable taking in person, but with my busy lifestyle, I knew 100% in person was not an option. This flexible structure is a major reason I was initially drawn to the program and why I was able to complete it.
What advice would you give someone interested in the Safety Engineering Technology program?
You do not have to sacrifice your personal life to go through this program. I completed it with a wife, two small children and a full-time job, and I never felt like I had too much on my plate. It is also not a race, and you can take one class a semester if that is what works best for you. The point is, as you are going through the program, no matter how slow or fast, you are going to be able to take what you are learning and implement it to real-life situations which will help grow confidence and make it worthwhile.
What can you do with a Safety Engineering Technology degree?
Customer Care Specialist
Environmental Health & Safety Technician