On December 9, 2016, I revisited Workshops for Warriors to find out what had been accomplished in the past four years since I had toured the facility during their first Manufacturing Day on October 5, 2012. At that time, I met retired naval officer Hernán Luis y Prado, founder and president of Workshops for Warriors (WFW).

The article I wrote in 2012 described how Hernán and his wife had self-financed the training they began providing in their own garage while Hernán was still in the service and how they moved into their first small building in 2011. Their first outside funding came from Goodrich Aerostructures, in Chula Vista, Calif., and they moved into a building twice the size in October 2011. Over the years, Goodrich Aerostructures has donated nearly $1 million in equipment and materials to help WFW build out its class offerings.

Hernán spent over an hour with me on this visit and told me that in January 2016, WFW became approved as a licensed school in California and is the only accredited school training veterans in the manufacturing skills of machining and welding. He said, "Workshops for Warriors (WFW) is a board-governed 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides quality hands-on training, accredited STEM educational programs, and opportunities to earn third party nationally recognized credentials to enable veterans, wounded warriors, and transitioning service members to be successfully trained and placed in their chosen advanced manufacturing career field. Through the generosity of private and corporate donations, WFW is able to provide training at no cost to the veterans, so that they can focus on school and not survival."

The WFW website states that they address two challenges: "The need for lifelong employment among veterans transitioning from the service, and the limited pipeline of skilled workers in the advanced manufacturing industry. According to a 2015 Ford Foundation report, more than 2.3 million advanced manufacturing jobs in the United States are unfilled due to lack of skilled labor." Their current 10,000 square feet building has 11 CNC machines, 18 welding booths, capable of handling 120 graduates per year. Their goal is to have 45,000 square feet with 40 CNC machines and 40 welding booths, capable of handling 450+ graduates per year.

I asked if their curriculum has expanded since 2012, and he said that WFW teaches:

  • Computer-aided design
  • Computer-aided manufacturing
  • Machinery repair and maintenance
  • CNC and manual machining and turning
  • Welding and fabrication

He said that students are now able to earn nationally recognized portable credentials from the American Welding Society (AWS), the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS), Mastercam University, SolidWorks, Immerse2Learn, and the National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3).

According to the website, Workshops for Warriors graduates are now employed by such companies as: BAE Systems, Barrett, Benchmade, Cubic Corp., Fox Fury Lighting Solutions, Gates Underwater Products, Gehring, General Dynamics NASSCO, Rogue Fitness, SpaceX, SPAWAR, and UTC Aerospace Systems.

Hernán stated, "Workshops for Warriors is already making significant, lasting improvements, and we are building a better, stronger future for veterans, their families and the U.S. economy by:

  • Reducing unemployment for veterans.
  • Meeting U.S. market demand for more trained, certified manufacturing workers.
  • Enhancing economic stability in the San Diego region.
  • Supporting growth of the U.S. manufacturing sector.
  • Helping more veterans successfully transition to civilian life—with hope and a renewed purpose through a secure civilian career path."

When I asked what his biggest challenge is, he said reliable funding is number one because:

  • Students cannot use GI bill benefits
  • Classes are free to veterans
  • Facility costs are $200,000 per month 
  • Average cost per student per semester is $20,268
  • With a needs-based living stipend provided, student cost per semester is $30,268

He said it is a five-step process to receive federal funding, and they are in the middle of step four (Operate as a licensed school for 2 years and pass BPPE audit). They hope to be able to accept federal funding by April 2019.

I asked how they are funded now, and he responded, "We keep costs and overhead low so that 83% of our donations go straight to training veterans. We have machinery donated or on loan to us. We receive donated or discounted materials (computers, software, metals, tools), and we have time donated by some of our instructors and staff. We collaborate with other nonprofits, and we receive private donations from manufacturing industry leaders and foundations, as well as individual financial donations. We have seven members on our board of directors and twenty-seven on our board of advisors."

The list of donors and sponsors has grown to such a long list of companies and organizations that I would not do justice to all of the partners to provide only a partial list. It would take up a whole page to list just the companies and organizations that have donated over $10,000 since 2014.