Heroes MAKE America Student Goes from the Army to Mars
An Army veteran's skills translate seamlessly in the manufacturing industry.
As a production scheduler for Mars, Incorporated, Thomas Schlieper has a hand in sending sweet treats all over the world.
In some ways, it’s very different from his former career. As a teenager, Schlieper joined the Army National Guard because it offered benefits like tuition assistance and scholarships that would help him go to college. When he finished school, he worked in his hometown and eventually decided to go into active service in the U.S. Army. That career spanned two decades and helped lead him to the manufacturing job he enjoys today.
While Schlieper served as an Army senior supply specialist, he enrolled in the Manufacturing Institute’s Heroes MAKE America program, which aims to connect manufacturers with highly qualified candidates and offer transitioning service members manufacturing-related training and support, thus creating a pipeline between the military and manufacturing. Through this U.S. Department of Defense-approved program, he toured the Mars production facility in Topeka, Kansas. Mars recognized his logistics experience and offered him a production scheduler position, which he accepted in February 2019.
“I served 20 years as a logistics guy,” he said. “Ordering supplies, making sure soldiers in the Army had what they needed. The leadership skills I learned in the Army helped me adapt to this new role.”
Schlieper recalls the stress he felt during his first day on the job at Mars, when he wondered whether he was up to the challenges of his new role—and the moment when it all clicked.
“My first couple days there, after I did the orientation, I was overwhelmed,” he said. “I thought, am I getting over my head? I was just a soldier, and now I’m something different.”
He was shadowing another employee when he suddenly realized that the system he would be using as a production scheduler at Mars was exactly the same system he used every day when ordering supplies and managing logistics in the Army.
“I looked at the system, and I was totally relieved,” said Schlieper. “All that stress went away, and I was like, I know this. I can do this.”
Today, Schlieper is deeply immersed in his new industry. He feels it’s a good fit for former members of the military, who will have an easier learning curve as a result of their training.
“Before I retired, some people I knew thought manufacturing jobs were jobs nobody wanted,” he says. “But that’s really not the case. It’s completely different. It’s a whole new world.”
Learn more about the Manufacturing Institute’s Heroes MAKE America program.