More than three dozen San Diego military veterans graduated Friday from Workshops for Warriors, a Barrio Logan nonprofit that for free trains and certifies veterans in manufacturing jobs, including welding, machining and fabrication.
The school has graduated more than 200 veterans since 2011 using funding from grants and donations.
“It’s been amazing to be able to come here to the school for free and be able to be taught all this information in such a short amount of time,” said Jacob Harkness, an Air Force veteran who served for four years loading cargo planes at Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc.
Harkness received certification in computer-design manufacturing after attending four months of classes. He said he already has a job lined up.
“It’s an aerospace job,” Harkness said. "I’m basically gonna be inspecting parts, quality assurance, just making sure that parts are within tolerance.”
The average starting salary for entry-level manufacturing jobs is about $60,000, said Workshops for Warriors founder Hernán Luis y Prado.
The 15-year Navy veteran started the organization after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and watching too many lives turned upside down when service members transitioning to civilian life couldn’t find jobs and support their families.
“When I saw that more of my friends were dying from drugs and suicide in San Diego than from bombs and bullets in Baghdad, and I was gonna change that,” Luis y Prado said.
The school has a waiting list of more than 500 veterans. Luis y Prado is hoping to expand the program throughout the country.