A nonprofit focused on providing STEM education opportunities to veterans has just added 3D printing to its curriculum. San Diego-based Workshops for Warriors (WFW), which has been preparing veterans for careers in advanced manufacturing since 2008, recently teamed up with Stratasys to help address the market's skilled labor shortage while giving students the ability to receive accreditation in additive manufacturing.
The WFW program has nearly 500 graduates to date, some of whom have gone on to work for aerospace companies such as UTC Aerospace Systems, SpaceX and GKN Aerospace. The credentials earned through the program, which are accredited by the American Welding Society (AWS), CNC Software Inc. (Mastercam), the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) and more, are transferrable to the MRO industry. During WFW's 16-week accelerated semesters, students earn multiple credentials at no cost to them. Program costs are funded by private donors and companies such as UTC Aerospace, which helped WFW secure a $100,000 donation in 2012 from the Goodrich Foundation and has been providing assistance to the program since 2011.
According to a spokesperson for UTC Aerospace, the partnership initially started via donations from the company's Chula Vista aerostructures unit in the form of scrap material for the program's welding labs and surplus repairable manufacturing tooling and equipment. Since then, UTC Aerospace has donated additional supplies, arranged support for the program's communications and even hired a WFW graduate, who started as a CNC operator and has since become a manufacturing team leader with the company.
To facilitate the hiring of its graduates, WFW hosts a hiring event at its facility each semester and has resources on its website to connect interested companies with students that might fit their needs. With its new partnership in the program, Stratasys says it is very interested in WFW graduates.
"The great thing about the program is that they produce extremely high-quality graduates. The challenge is that the program needs more financial support to produce enough graduates to meet the demand for them. We're hoping that our involvement continues to encourage others to donate, so WFW can continue to produce the high caliber employees that companies, like Stratasys, need in an advanced manufacturing environment," says Mark Menninger, government segment sales leader at Stratasys.
For its part, Stratasys has provided a Fortus 450mc production 3D printer to the program and plans to provide ongoing application support by training instructors with the new technology. The company believes 3D printing will help graduates be competitive in the manufacturing industry.
“Today’s manufacturing demands companies move faster and more efficiently than ever before. Lean processes mandate reduction of both tooling costs and risks, as well as removal of design constraints typically hindering productivity. Additive technology is the engine that makes this all possible,” says Stratasys President of Americas Rich Garrity.
WFW is limited to accepting between 50-60 students per semester and the waiting list continues to grow, with an average of 10 applications per week throughout the year. According to Menninger, industry philanthropy will be crucial to help grow the program and reach more students. WFW receives no Federal, State or local funding, but expects to be eligible for GI Bill benefits in April 2019.