“I saw many of my fellow service members feeling lost with no path to a successful civilian life. I needed to change that.”
–Hernán Luis y Prado, U.S. Navy officer and founder of Workshops for Warriors
For 15 years, Hernán Luis y Prado served in the United States Navy. During that time, he had three combat tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he was decorated with the Navy Achievement Medal and Combat Action Ribbon. As heroic as his service was, what he’s done since that time is perhaps even more significant: in 2008, he founded Workshops for Warriors, a nonprofit school with the noble goal of training veterans and helping to transition service members into careers in advanced manufacturing.
Funded through private donations, Workshops for Warriors offers two primary programs: Welding for Warriors and Machining for Warriors. Over the course of the 16-week program, a team of highly experienced instructors lead veterans and transitioning service members through the training they need to obtain careers in their chosen manufacturing field. Since the program is funded by private donations from individual benefactors and companies like SOLIDWORKS, veterans and transitioning service members can access the program free of charge.
Students have the opportunity to earn over 60 nationally recognized third-party credentials from the American Welding Society (AWS), CNC Software (Mastercam), Immerse2learn, the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS), the National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3), and SOLIDWORKS. At time of writing, 2,179 credentials have been earned through Workshops for Warriors.
Students also have the option to eschew the structured welding and manufacturing programs and take specific classes that meet their needs.The program offers 15 courses in total:
- Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD): SOLIDWORKS
- Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM): MASTERCAM
- Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM): CNC LATHE
- Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM): CNC MILLING
- Shielded Metal Arc Welding Basic (SMAWB)
- Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW)
- Flux Cored Arc Welding (FCAW)
- AMADA FOM2 Laser
- AMADA CNC Press Brake
- Flowmaster Programming and Waterjet Operation
- Forklift Safety
- Snap-On and Starrett Tools
- 3D Printing
Heidi, Class of 2016. (Image courtesy of Workshops for Warriors.)
In the brief time Workshops for Warriors has been operational, the school has seen an extraordinary number of student success stories.
“I really had no clue as to what I would be doing upon exiting the military,” said Dennis, who served in the Marine Corps for 21 years.“I just knew that I enjoyed being around other veterans and wanted to do something that made a difference. All I ever hoped to achieve was to be able to provide for my family and live a simple life without struggles.”
Now, Dennis is employed in the Workshops for Warriors fabrication shop, giving back to the program that gave so much to him. “Workshops for Warriors has made such a huge difference in my life. It has given me direction when I would probably be lost. I feel as if I fit in around here. Workshops for Warriors has made it so that I no longer have to worry about providing for my family. Working here has been, and hopefully will be for a long time, a very rewarding job.”
Heidi is another inspiring example of how Workshops for Warriors is making a real difference in the lives of veterans. Having served in the Marine Corps for 5.5 years, she used Workshops for Warriors as a way to advance her career as a mechanic.
“My boss is okay that I have to take off a little bit of time and not work the full eight-hour days because I’m going to school,” she said.“It’s making me a more valuable employee, which is fantastic. Just two weeks ago, my boss had me weld up a bracket for an AC system that I was installing because he knew I was going to school.”
For Heidi, one of the most valuable aspects of Workshops for Warriors was being able to regain a sense of fellowship with her classmates.
“As a female veteran, when you get out, you don’t have the comradery with the guys that you used to,” she explained.“Being back here, making friends and contacts, things of that nature—it’s fun. I love welding, and sometimes it’s super frustrating, sometimes it’s difficult, and sometimes I want to quit, but for the most part, I love it. When you find something you love to do, you have to stick with it, knuckle down, listen, work, and put in the time.”
The Capital Campaign
The Capital Campaign vision for the expanded Workshops for Warriors facility. (Image courtesy of Workshops for Warriors.)
In 2015, Workshops for Warriors had over 550 veterans on its waiting list. With demand for the program exceeding the available capacity, Workshops for Warriors began its Capital Campaign, an effort to raise funds to expand its existing facility in San Diego.The school hopes to turn its facility into a three-story, 45,000-square-foot campus, complete with new learning labs, additional classrooms, and a space for student and career services.
The current Workshops for Warriors facility can accommodate about 100 students per year. If the Capital Campaign succeeds, the new facility will more than quadruple the school’s capacity, to 450 students a year. The upgrade will also add five times as many CNC mills, CNC lathes, CNC lasers, brakes, shears, and CAD/CAM workstations and simulators—and Workshops for Warriors will go from having one classroom to 12.
Needless to say, the Capital Campaign is an ambitious effort for a very worthy cause. As Workshops for Warriors puts it: They ensure our future. Let’s ensure theirs.
Show Your Support
“We all love veterans,” said Hernán. “But loving a veteran doesn’t make them a good welder. Or a machinist. And if you’re a Boeing or Lockheed Martin, you need someone who can put that aircraft together. And that’s what we teach…and it’s a result of people like you making this happen.”
If you feel inspired to support Workshop for Warriors, you can donate here.
About the Author
Michael Alba is a lead contributor of the IoT section for ENGINEERING.com. Michael has a degree in engineering physics from the University of Alberta. He has also conducted research in wireless beamforming and Doppler radar.