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Bridging the Advanced Manufacturing Skills Gap with Talented Military Veterans

Michael Moncada
By Michael Moncada US Army Veteran and CEO, 3D Veterans

Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. These are some of the many values that our nations’ heroes live by every day. Most will agree that these instilled values embody what makes veterans great assets in the workforce. Veterans show up on time, are disciplined, and are great problem solvers. There is a problem though. These skilled veterans are having difficulties making the transition to what they call the “civilian world”. Every month thousands of soldiers embark on this new journey. With the war drawing down, it is expected there will be more than a million soldiers who will make their transition. These veterans will be met with those same difficulties. With the great attributes that these men and women bring to the table, why are they struggling to find meaningful employment? It turns out that many employers do not understand how to translate the skill sets that are learned in the military into what their organizations do. How would you translate the skill “Located and neutralized IEDs, mines and other explosive devices” to a manufacturing position? The answer is you don’t. This is why 3D Veterans was created–to train veterans and transitioning service members on employer-specific needs in “bootcamp” and project-based learning style programs. Where are these programs needed, though? Well, there is an industry with the perfect opportunity.

Advanced Manufacturing Opportunity

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CEO of 3D Veterans Michael Moncada (left) presenting Sean Garcia (right) with his certificate for completing the 3D Veterans Additive Manufacturing Bootcamp.

Most discussions regarding the advanced manufacturing workforce normally come to the same conclusion. It is the notorious skills gap that is holding back innovation and growth. This is not only a big issue on the surface, but one that becomes magnified considering the projections of 3 million more unfilled positions being added in the next couple of years if a solution isn’t developed. Unfortunately, In the 21st century, advanced manufacturing is seen by many as an unexciting field with low impact and offering not-so rewarding careers. This is due to a lack of awareness of the exciting technologies and innovations being used and developed by the industry. The challenge lies in solving these three problems: veterans having difficulty transitioning to the civilian workforce; advanced manufacturing jobs going unfilled due to a skills gap, and the lack of awareness of the technologies and innovations that power advanced manufacturing. 3D Veterans has come up with an efficient yet meaningful way to solve these problems: train veterans on the skills needed, and create a project-based component that solves issues in the community, which in turn creates awareness of the technology. Even more specific than that, we receive employer commitments, train directly to that employers’ workforce needs and directly place veterans after training. The first cohort was a public/private-developed Additive Manufacturing Bootcamp.

The Beginning: Additive Manufacturing Bootcamp

There are many emerging technologies that make up advanced manufacturing. None, however, is as exciting and empowering as additive manufacturing. The Additive Manufacturing Bootcamp was created to empower our veterans by teaching them the skills to think, create, and solve in three dimensions. Through a Google.org grant that was managed by America Makes and the Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Innovation, 3D Veterans developed a core curriculum and execution plan that would teach veterans computer aided modelling, a component in understanding additive manufacturing, traditional manufacturing, and foundational concepts in material sciences and mechatronics. The most exciting component was one that had veterans designing and prototyping assistive solutions for disabled veterans. With a memorandum of understanding, 3D Veterans worked with the local VA hospital to understand what the biggest needs were for their disabled veteran population. Among those needs were aesthetically pleasing prosthetics, custom bracing, and mobility enhancing devices. All three issues were addressed by our veterans through innovative prototypes. Some of the veterans have even decided to pursue entrepreneurship and commercialization of these devices in order to make them accessible to any veteran who needs them. There is a tremendous impact created when there is incentive to create a better world and life for those in need.

Impact for Veterans

The highlight of the program was the undeniable boost in confidence and perspective that these men and women came out of the training with. They gained a sense of understanding that there are problems in every aspect of life and that technology can be used to solve many of them. The veterans also came away with a confidence that empowers them to serve their communities by applying the skills learned. They are now qualified to work in various vertical markets that apply this technology and immediately impact their organization with these new skills that shrink the gap.

Through the expansion of 3D Veterans program, more veterans will be served, and the gap will continue to shrink as we continue to create the opportunities they so deserve.

Expansion of Training Offerings

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Tameka Hearn (left) and Ben Fennen (right) with their first 3D-printed part.

3D Veterans is developing new bootcamps with some of the nation’s most innovative companies to continue a successful model of training and employing veterans in meaningful emerging technology careers with additional support for those who choose the entrepreneurship and higher education paths. As technologies continue to be developed and companies seek to grow, there will continue to be a demand for a workforce that understands 21st century technology, and 3D Veterans seeks to create it. Public/private partnerships are key to the expansion of workforce programs due to the collaborative nature of understanding the needs of industry. Through these bootcamps, industry certificates will be developed that will be utilized by educational institutions as offerings for their programs. This will ensure a continuous talent pipeline is available to those organizations who have workforce needs.

Piecing It all Together

There is a great opportunity for advanced manufacturing organizations to develop workforce talent with current employees through programs that also benefit their communities. Project-based training is a great way to involve the locals and additionally create awareness of the technologies of the future, the organization and those who will be the workers working in it for generations to come. We are in an exciting time where these innovations are pushing the boundaries on a day-to-day basis. It is up to manufacturers to do what some think is unconventional. 3D Veterans has seen tremendous success in many areas, from retention of knowledge, to the innovative solutions that veterans are developing with the new access of information, the skillsets, and the awareness of the technology that is and will keep changing the world for the better. If you want to find out how you can help 3D Veterans mission to empower veterans by creating opportunities, please reach out to Michael Moncada at Michael@3DVeterans.com.

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