Workshops for Warriors is a nonprofit organization that trains veterans for skilled manufacturing careers. Founder and president Hernán Luis y Prado (fourth from right) is seen here with a group of graduates from the program, all of whom now have manufacturing jobs. (Photo provided by Workshops. Photos to follow were taken during my own visit to the facility.)
The machine shop, welding shop and other work and training areas are located within a facility on a small lot near Naval Base San Diego. Though its future plans are bigger than this facility, Workshops for Warriors won’t leave the location yet. One of the requirements for obtaining certification for the G.I. Bill is to remain at the same address for seven years.
The CNC machine shop includes one lathe and three machining centers donated by Haas Automation. Graduates routinely find jobs working on machines that are less modern than the ones they trained on. Mr. Luis y Prado says he is particularly grateful for Haas, one of the organization’s strongest supporters.
Instruction is largely hands-on, even in the classroom. CNC simulators are used in teaching machine tool programming. Seen here is James Moreno, a graduate who has chosen to continue with the school as an assistant instructor, discussing a turned part used to illustrate programmed moves on a lathe. On a recent visit to his hometown in Texas, Mr. Moreno says he was offered a job by a local machine shop owner who had been looking for a qualified programmer for 18 months.
This simple building illustrates how much potential there is to expand Workshops for Warriors’ teaching capacity. The recently purchased building is being outfitted with computer workstations. When the work is done, the addition of this classroom will double the organization’s capacity for CAD instruction.
Mr. Moreno is seen here with millwright apprentice Josh Allen. While he learns at the school, Mr. Allen is already earning a wage for what he knows. He works for the organization by helping to restore used manual milling machines. Workshops for Warriors sells refurbished milling machines on eBay for income applied toward the school's operating expenses.
Mr. Luis y Prado has big plans for the teaching organization for veterans—plans which include the building expansion drawings already hanging on his office wall. The $5 million site he hopes to build will include not only bigger spaces for the machine shop, welding shop and classroom instruction, but also a business incubator for veterans who are entrepreneurs. The new site would also include housing space—a crucial feature, he says. Housing capacity would allow Workshops for Warriors to better serve veterans who depart military service homeless and without financial means.
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?