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Focus on the Workforce: Workshops for Warriors Expands Training

 Sarah A. Webster





By Sarah A. Webster
Editor in Chief
Manufacturing Engineering Media
Dearborn, MI

Workshops for Warriors is a nonprofit organization in San Diego, CA, that provides free training and certification in advanced manufacturing techniques to US veterans. Recently, it has expanded its curriculum to include training in state-of-the-art Amada CNC laser and Flow CNC waterjet cutting. 

Hernan Luis y Prado founded Workshops for Warriors in 2010. As a former United States Navy officer, he saw the need for a facility dedicated to training veterans and giving them the skills needed to secure jobs in manufacturing. According to some estimates, there are between 600,000 and two million manufacturing jobs available in the US, but only for those who have the knowledge and skills to fill them.

What began as a small effort in his garage has now grown to an impressive 30,000-square-foot facility across from the San Diego Naval Base. The statistics show Workshop for Warriors’ program is working. All of the program's graduates have been hired and retained by industry leaders thirsting for new talent.  But without the generosity and shared vision of the manufacturing industry—which has donated capital, equipment, supplies and services—Workshops for Warriors wouldn’t be anywhere near what it is today.

“I am very grateful to all of the industry leaders who understand and support our efforts,” Prados said.

For example, the Gene Haas Foundation has donated $200,000, and the SME Education Foundation has matched $150,000 to date. Betenbender Mfg Inc., builders of press brakes and shears in Coggon, IA, was among the first manufacturers to step in, donating $250,000 worth of machines. CNC Software Inc. (Tolland, CT), developer of Mastercam, and Haas Automation Inc. (Oxnard, CA) have donated equipment and training. HE&M Saw provides all the new saws used at the facility, while Scotchman provides all the ironworkers and coldsaws. Kurt Manufacturing has provided the vises used in the CNC machines.

There are currently 15 Mastercam and SolidWorks stations in Workshops for Warriors' CAD/CAM lab, and 22 more are planned, as grant money is released. The program has four Haas CNC mills, a Haas CNC lathe, and a CNC plasma cutting machine, all of which have been kept busy the past few years, with students learning how to design and program in the lab. The veteran students then proceed to the machine tools to create what they have designed.

A student at Workshops for Warriors checks a program at one of the facility's Haas CNC mills.

The program has a full-time college professor on staff, teaching Mastercam, along with teaching assistants, using Mastercam and Immerse-to-Learn books and online tutorials. Workshops for Warriors currently has the latest Mastercam X7 5-axis version software with the Productivity Plus probing feature. Students can also take Mastercam lessons at home and bring the projects into the facility to run on the machines.

There are currently 84 students enrolled in six classes, attending six days a week. More than 550 veterans are on the waiting list. They have a choice of obtaining nationally recognized credentials (NIMS, AWS, Mastercam University, SolidWorks CSWA) learning machinery repair, CAD/CAM, machining, and welding fabrication as spaces open up. Workshops for Warriors has 20 complete welding stations, more than most training facilities in California. Thanks to a $250,000 donation from Donaldson Torit, it has a brand new ventilation system that will accommodate up to 60 welding stations as the program continues to grow. The program now teaches and can certify every welding process known to man.

Two more generous donations have dramatically increased the curriculum for Warriors selecting the CAD/CAM and machining path. Amada America Inc. has provided a cutting-edge CNC laser cutting system, while Flow International Corp. delivered a large format Dynamic Head CNC waterjet cutting machine. The Amada Model FOM2-3015NT allows for high-speed processing of both thick and thin materials, has a high-speed shuttle table design and provides Cut Process Monitoring for automatic pierce detection as well as plasma detection. The Warriors are cutting steel, stainless steel and aluminum on the Amada.

The Flow Model Mach 2B 4020 with Dynamic Waterjet has a 13.1 × 6.6' (3.9 × 2.0-m) work envelope, a Paser abrasive cutting system, FlowMaster software and scrap remnant control whereby small parts are automatically nested within larger parts. Warriors are cutting a variety of materials on the Flow, including steel, titanium, aluminum, plastic, rubber, Inconel, brass, glass and brick.

The Amada and Flow machines together represent an investment in the Warriors of $1.5 million.

All of the design work for parts headed to the two machines are done in Mastercam and exported into resident Amada or Flow programs. Amada and Flow sent trainers to teach train-the-trainers classes. Students from the first few classes have become teaching assistants for the next generation of Amada and Flow classes. The program is set up so students first learn the Haas machines, then spend a week with the waterjet and receive a certificate of completion from Flow, then a week with the laser and receive a certificate from Amada. The final step is a week with the high-definition Lincoln TorchMate CNC plasma cutting machine, again with exported part programs designed in Mastercam.

An Innovation for Disabled Veterans

Many of the parts designed and machined by Warriors are not just “practice” parts. Workshops for Warriors actually has 13 patents, including one for plates used to level machinery and another for a Welding Wagon that is fast becoming a star performer for the welding industry. Many of the Warriors are disabled, meaning it is very difficult and time consuming going from one area of a facility to another or picking up equipment, making adjustments, going back to the welding booth and so on. Prados and his team designed the Welding Wagon to hold the welding torch, helmet, tank, regulator, consumables and anything else that might be needed on this portable wagon. In welding shops and stations across the country, it will be a natural convenience whether the operator is disabled or not.

A Special Program

Workshops for Warriors is currently the only accredited school in the USA that exclusively teaches veterans, wounded warriors and their dependents. It has been accredited by the National Institute for Metalworking Skills, the American Welding Society, by Mastercam University and by SolidWorks University. It obtained its Haas Technical Education Center credential last year and this January the program was recognized as an accredited American Welding Society (AWS) Educational Institution.

Prado is exceptionally proud of the accolades that Workshops for Warriors continues to receive and has been invited to the White House on two separate occasions to receive recognition for working with the Veterans community. Workshops for Warriors has just won Best Non-Profit in San Diego in addition to One of Four Best Non-Profits in the United States. This last one brought with it a $200,000 prize from Bank of America.

As the program’s funding goals are met, and students are able to use their GI Bill funding, the program will continue to expand. Transitioning veterans into life-long advanced manufacturing careers is something everyone can support. ME


This article was first published in the August 2014 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.

Published Date : 8/1/2014

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