This Smartforce article first appeared in its entirety in the May 2013 issue of AMTNews
AMT members often tell me that they used to have an easy time hiring former military personnel to work as laborers, machinists, welders, field service techs, etc., but that in recent years, it’s been more difficult to recruit from the military. With the skilled labor shortage in manufacturing, the ability to find qualified people has become increasingly more competitive, and even though our industry tends to provide a higher level of compensation and benefits, about 26 percent higher than all other industries according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we are also competing with the energy industry, the telecoms, cyber security and IT firms and others for the best career candidates.
Earlier this year, I traveled to San Diego for a meeting of the Board of Directors of the National Institute For Metalworking Skills. NIMS accredits vocational high schools, technical schools, and community colleges and provides exams and credentials for production technicians, machine operators, machinists and machine repair technicians. On the afternoon before the start of the board meeting, we had the opportunity to tour the Workshops For Warriors facility near the Navy yard in San Diego.
Workshops For Warriors provides education and training for careers in manufacturing to military veterans and Wounded Warriors. Workshops For Warriors was founded by former Navy veteran Hernán Luis y Prado in the garage of his home in suburban Washington, D.C. Hernán moved the operation to San Diego not because of the great weather, but because more military veterans exit the service in the San Diego area than in any other city in the United States, and the veteran unemployment rate in San Diego is approaching 19 percent. The day before our visit, NIMS auditors were on-site performing their accreditation review, and I am happy to report that Workshops For Warriors has formally received their NIMS accreditation. Separately, NIMS has been working with the White House through the Pentagon to provide NIMS credentials for exiting military personnel who qualify as machinists and machine repair technicians.
Thanks to many generous donations from around the manufacturing industry, students (veterans) attend Workshops For Warriors tuition-free. They have access to machinery, equipment, computers and software for their training, but more is needed. Hernán installed a couple of refrigerators and microwaves when it became apparent that some of the students were sleeping in their cars or in restroom facilities at the shop. Other students were having problems with reliable transportation, so a lift was installed to repair vehicles on site.
Workshops For Warriors has a 100 percent placement rate, and has trained or is still in the process of training more than 200 veterans for a career in manufacturing. Hernán is doing everything he can to qualify the training facility for federal, state and local grants so that he can sustain the model and expand it to other cities around the country where there are large numbers of unemployed veterans. For more information or to donate to Workshops For Warriors, visit www.workshopsforwarriors.org.
This is a very worthy step in assuring that our industry will be able to recruit from one of our nation’s most valuable resources, our returning military service personnel.