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How veterans are 'hitting the ground running' in U.S. manufacturing careers

Hernán Luis y Prado, CEO & Founder of Workshops for Warriors, joins Yahoo Finance to discuss the company’s initiatives to connect veterans with manufacturing careers.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: You work specifically with veterans, as well as transitioning service members. What does the jobs picture look like on that front, specifically because there's been a lot of concern about manufacturing jobs that have not necessarily come back to the US, despite the focus on that under the previous administration.

HERNAN LUIS Y PRADO: So this is kind of a chicken-or-the-egg issue, that there are 2.4 million advanced manufacturing jobs that will be going unfilled over the next 10 years. And you currently have 522,000 unfilled jobs due to a lack of skilled labor in America. And we have almost 1 million veterans that are transitioning out of the military over the next five years. So it's literally a perfect storm for America to regain the workforce that she deserves and to give veterans careers that I think that they've earned.

ZACK GUZMAN: And Hernan, we've talked about, you know, skill-building and kind of this transition for veterans coming back, reentering civilian life. And it seems like it will take a bit. You know, it takes a long time for some of these skill-building programs to pay the dividends they promise-- two to six years, you say. How does maybe Workshops for Warriors do a quicker job of matching veterans with these manufacturing jobs you're looking to get them started in?

HERNAN LUIS Y PRADO: So when the Secretary of the Navy visited a school, he called us the SEAL team of manufacturing. And what he meant by that was that you're able to get an incredibly high-caliber person quickly trained up into an advanced manufacturing career. If you've ever been in the military, you know that you're dealing with literally the best of the best, the top 1% of Americans that are even eligible to become part of the United States military. When they come out of the military, they come through our program. We are dealing with an incredibly competent, capable, committed crowd of people.

And we provide accelerated and compressed training programs in computer-aided design, computer-aided manufacturing, machinery repair. And we get these people trained up and give them an opportunity to earn nationally-recognized credentials so that they can hit the ground running. And since 2008, 95% of our graduates have been placed and retained in full-time jobs.

So in short, what I can tell you is we've been doing what we've said we've been doing for quite some time. And in four months, Workshops for Warriors graduates can be the vanguard for America's manufacturing workforce. Internally, we say from front line to production line.

AKIKO FUJITA: Hernan, when you think back to where the discussion was in the labor market pre-pandemic, things were much better. But there was also concern about the skills gap. The job openings didn't necessarily match the skills that were available. Do you think that has actually widened as a result of this pandemic? And if so, what opportunities do you see to try and narrow the divide that already exists?

HERNAN LUIS Y PRADO: So that is a great question. The current state of America's manufacturing sector is embarrassing as an American. America's manufacturing capability has been slowly eroding for decades and is leaving fewer Americans interested. And it's creating this ballooning skills gap that you're mentioning that's dragging down the entire US economy. Right now, as I said, 522 open positions, which is going to result in $2.5 trillion in lost economic impact.

Fortunately, America has got 1 million motivated service members that are transitioning into the workforce and have given accelerated training, coupled with nationally-recognized credentials. They're going to become America's manufacturing vanguard. That's the number-one complaint I hear from top manufacturing companies like Reliant Steel and Aluminum, Ariel Corporation, SpaceX, Google, Tesla, is they don't have enough skilled workers to fill the job openings they have.

And most importantly, America does not have a nationally viable training pipeline to be able to give American companies the employees they need. And that's where Workshops for Warriors steps in.

ZACK GUZMAN: And what do you think is-- real quick, before we let you go, what do you think is the biggest misconception maybe around programs like this that really is taking veteran service members and putting them in the manufacturing sector? I mean, it would seem like one that might translate well. So what are you always surprised by when you hear people reacting to Workshops for Warriors?

HERNAN LUIS Y PRADO: The biggest reaction we get is that they're surprised. Workshops for Warriors is the only accredited school in America that trains, certifies, and helps place veterans and transitioning service members into advanced manufacturing careers throughout America. The only school in America. And we are raising our throughput to almost 2,500 graduates by January 2024. So if your viewers-- and I know there's 10 million of them here this morning-- go to wsw.org and donate, they can do so knowing that 87% of their money goes straight to training programs, which lead to average jobs of $60,000 a year.

ZACK GUZMAN: It's important work. I love what you're doing. The CEO and Founder of Workshops for Warriors. And I'd be remiss if I didn't thank you for your service too, sir, as an American whose cousin served in the Navy. And I thank you for that, and Thanks for coming on. Hernan Luis y Prado, appreciate it once again. Have a great weekend.