Transitioning out of the military can be a tricky thing. Although service members go through training to make the transition easier, many vets say the training is too broad and doesn’t help them land a position in the working world. That’s where the nonprofit Workshops for Warriors comes in.
Workshops for Warriors was founded in 2008 to train and place veterans specifically in careers in advanced manufacturing based on two pressing needs. According to founder and CEO Hernan Luis y Prado (a retired U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman and Surface Warfare Officer), “One of those needs is the lack of advanced manufacturing talent in the U.S. The other is that some veterans and wounded warriors aren’t able to integrate successfully into civilian life again. Workshops for Warriors trains them, certifies them to nationally recognized standards, and places them into advanced manufacturing careers.”
Although vets acquire unique skills during their military careers, many end up under-utilizing these skills when transitioning to civilian careers. Also, service members may not know how to effectively market their skills when transitioning to the civilian sector.
“If I had to do this with funds out of my own pocket, it would be almost impossible,” admits Derek, a former Marine Corps service member who trained as a machining student at Workshops for Warriors and now works as a teaching assistant there. “The quality of the education here is out of this world compared to what I could afford. I wanted to go places but I didn’t know how far I could go until I came into this program. It’s given me a roadmap, with skills to use along the way. It’s given me everything.”
Workshops for Warriors places 94 percent of its veterans in career jobs and regularly hosts career and job fairs. Austin Thompson, a Marine Corps veteran, was placed as a welder after going through WFW’s program. “My transition out of the Marine Corps was challenging. I was raising my two kids. My daughter was 3, my son was 1 at the time. Being a single dad, I had to make a lot of self-sacrifice to make sure my kids were taken care of. Welding is one of those things there’s a huge demand for. Being here at the school, we’re all learning together, we’re all working together. And you’re not going to find that anywhere else. Welding for me is a lifestyle choice, a career choice that I wanted to pursue and this program made that possible.”
The organization is funded by private individuals, organizations and foundations. Some veterans are eligible to cover tuition with the GI Bill. Richard Arendsee, a three-year volunteer and donor to Workshops for Warriors, recently held a fundraising event at his home in Rancho Santa Fe. As a former service member in the Marine Corps himself, he explained why he is so devoted to this cause. “Our veterans have not been treated very well and a lot of them end up unemployed or underemployed. The government doesn’t give them any training for civilian life. How much use is a ‘Cobra door gunner’ in the workplace? I know that with WFW, my money is going directly to military members without a huge overhead and will ensure them a well-paying job upon graduation.”
Workshops for Warriors just celebrated its 10th anniversary with 572 veterans graduated from its programs to date. CEO Hernán Luis y Prado’s vision, which started in his garage helping one vet at a time, continues to grow. “Now it feels like every day, more and more people join the ranks of those who are supporting us. The earth now trembles with the sound of our footsteps. And that literally leaves me humbled, grateful and thankful to be a part of it.”
Workshops for Warriors is celebrating is 3rd Annual Gala aboard the USS Midway on Thursday, April 4 from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. If you’d like to learn more or register for the event, go to wfw.org/workshops-for-warriors-gala-registration-form/