Workshop for Warriors, a local nonprofit that trains veterans for jobs in manufacturing receives $500,000.00 from the Gene Haas Foundation to provide scholarships. Three Camp Pendleton Marines were among the first nine recipients of the scholarship announced at a ceremony on Thursday July 3. The scholarship provides a stipend to offset living expenses for veterans while they are completing the vocational program and getting certifications to land a job.
The program provides free classes for U.S. military veterans in welding, fabrication, machining, computer-aided design & manufacture and machinery repair.
The school, which officially opened in 2011, has a 100 percent job placement rate for its more than 120 graduates, according to Ana Claudia Guedes, the nonprofit’s executive vice president.
Graduates earn certifications from the American Welding Society and the National Institute of Metalworking Skills.
“We want to start training veterans here as soon as they are transitioning into civilian life so they can get a job quickly,” she said.
One problem is that if transitioning military can’t get a job fast and they don’t have a steady income, then they start missing their rent payments, which means their credit score probably goes down so they lose security clearance, which closes them out of some Department of Defense jobs they would qualify for, Guedes said.
The nonprofit is trying to get veterans trained before they come to that point.
“The training is advanced and up-to-date and it’s very veteran friendly,” said scholarship recipient Lance Cpl. Mike Casey, who heard about the program from a fellow Marine taking machinery classes. Casey, who was based at Camp Pendleton and deployed to Afghanistan served for five years in the Marine Corps.
The nonprofit was founded by retired Navy officer Hernán Luis y Prado, who started helping comrades in his garage workshop when he returned from deployment to Iraq in 2003. He saw some of his buddies who came back injured, losing their homes and families because they couldn’t get jobs and transition into civilian life.
While he was stationed in the Washington D.C. area, Prado invited comrades over to his house to learn how to use woodworking and metal fabrication tools while they were in medical rehabilitation.
He continued his informal workshops at other duty stations across the country, buying additional equipment until his garage was bursting. He and his wife continued to buy equipment as they saw that manufacturing skills helped fellow service members get jobs.
In early 2011, three years after founding Workshop for Warriors, and after outgrowing several buildings, Prado, the nonprofit’s president, opened its current half-acre campus just outside downtown San Diego across the street from Naval Station San Diego.
When Prado gave talks to wounded warrior regiments at Camp Pendleton and Naval Medical Center San Diego, he would ask how many had a job lined up when they left the service. Very few raised their hands. Prado is set on changing that.
Prado was recognized as a “Champion of Change” at the White House last year.
For more information, visit workshopsforwarriors.org