Military Readiness

A small nonprofit is demonstrating just how ready veterans are to transition into skilled manufacturing careers. The organization is helping vets and manufacturers at the same time. How far could this training model go?

Columns From: 11/6/2013 Modern Machine Shop, ,

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Peter Zelinski

Could veterans provide the answer to manufacturing’s need for skilled employees? One number offers a clue: 100 percent. Of 90 graduates so far from Workshops for Warriors, an organization providing machining and welding training to recently discharged veterans, 100 percent have found skilled manufacturing jobs.

I recently visited Workshops for Warriors’ small instructional facility in San Diego and had the honor of meeting some of its students. Among those this organization serves are many wounded vets learning to live and work with prosthetic limbs. I came away from the visit with the simple conclusion that this organization deserves your attention, and quite possibly your support.

Some other numbers help describe just how humble Workshops for Warriors’ efforts are, and how much larger the impact might be. Founder Hernán Luis y Prado says he is aware of about 2,500 skilled manufacturing job openings in the San Diego area alone, and his organization has a waiting list of about 500 applicants. However, the current equipment, resources and staffing allow only about 50 students per year to complete the organization’s intensive, 16-week, hands-on credentialed training.

The equipment is largely donated. Haas Automation, Flow International, Amada, Scotchman Industries, Mastercam and Sandvik Coromant are some of the equipment or software suppliers that have given to the school. Meanwhile, staff members donate their time. One of the volunteers is Mr. Luis y Prado himself. 

The Workshops for Warriors model is scalable, he says. He hopes to see it grow much larger. Plans have been drawn for an expansion of the current site, and he hopes for sites in other cities. Both aims are plausible. His efforts have been recognized by the White House and the Department of Defense, and the institution has just two years left in the seven-year process of being approved to receive tuition through the G.I. Bill.

I mentioned that the efforts are humble. Mr. Luis y Prado says one aspect of the program’s humility is key. That is, graduates are not certified by Workshops for Warriors—their credentials do not carry this name. Instead, the organization trains to the requirements of nationally recognized bodies, including the National Institute for Metalworking Skills and the American Welding Society. Graduates returning to their hometowns can leave San Diego far behind, so it is important that they have credentials recognized everywhere.

These job seekers also bring qualifications exceeding those credentials. The typical recently discharged veteran is, at the very least, drug-free, punctual, accustomed to pressure, and well above average in character and maturity. A vet is also someone trained at working in teams. How many young job applicants have all of these attributes?

I suspect many machine shop owners and managers would say, “Show me someone like that who can run a CNC, and I’d hire them.” Adding this final element of training is the straightforward mission that Workshops for Warriors has undertaken.

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The nonprofit organization provides skilled manufacturing training to recently discharged veterans.

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