LIFT Announces First Graduating Students from “Operation Next” Program

"Operation Next" provides education and training opportunities in high-demand advanced manufacturing jobs for separating military personnel.

Lightweight Innovations For Tomorrow (LIFT)

Lightweight Innovations For Tomorrow (LIFT), a Manufacturing USA institute, announces the first group of seven soldiers to graduate from its “Operation Next” Advanced Manufacturing Certification Program. 

“Operation Next” is designed to provide military service members the opportunity to pursue industry-driven education and skills development during their transition period prior to separation, earning nationally recognized industry credentials in some of the most in-demand advanced manufacturing jobs in the country. This includes precision machining and industrial technology where more than a half million jobs are currently available.

Graduates, half of whom have already accepted full-time positions, include:  

  • Adrian Guajardo (ITM)
  • Duriel Hannah (CNC)
  • Zachary Hill (ITM)
  • Timothy McKinney (CNC)
  • Danny Scaggs (ITM)
  • Tim Short (CNC)
  • Josh Waterhouse (ITM)

The program, which kicked off in the fourth quarter of 2017, is being piloted at Ft. Campbell, KY – home of the 101st Airborne Division – and currently has 27 soldiers enrolled. The pilot has an initial goal of enrolling, graduating and securing employment for 101 soldiers.

“'Operation Next' is playing a crucial role in the lives of our servicemen and women as well as our regional manufacturing economy in Tennessee. We are pleased to support it and thrilled to see its success,” says Bradley Jackson, President, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Tennessee Manufacturers Association. “Our manufacturers are in need of skilled workers and the veterans who graduate from this program have the skills necessary to succeed here in Tennessee or anywhere else around the country.”

Upon completion of the program, participants earn national credentials based on industry standards from the National Institute for Metalworking Skills for critical functions in Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Machining or Industrial Technology Maintenance (ITM).

“Many transitioning soldiers feel they have no marketable skills from their time in the military which will translate into careers in the civilian world,” says Tim Short, the program’s first graduate who moved home to Michigan after serving 8 years in the U.S. Army. “'Operation Next' not only gives them the opportunity to learn in-demand skills and certifications but also can assist them in landing the much needed job to make their transition smooth and painless.”

“It is often a difficult transition into the civilian workforce for the courageous men and women who serve in our Armed Forces,” says Emily DeRocco, Education and Workforce Director, LIFT. “At LIFT, we believe we have a dual responsibility: to help these service members prepare as effectively as possible for the job market and to connect them directly to the nation’s manufacturers who have jobs going unfilled because of a serious skills gap in the workforce. Operation Next is a win-win for separating military personnel and for the nation’s manufacturers.”

The Operation Next program was developed in partnership with the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS), Amatrol – a leading provider of online and simulation-based Advanced Manufacturing training, the Tennessee Department of Workforce, Tennesee College of Applied Technology, Workforce Essentials and Gene Haas Foundation.

LIFT, operated by the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute (ALMMII) and one of the founding Manufacturing USA institutes, is a public-private partnership dedicated to developing and deploying advanced lightweight metal manufacturing technologies, and implementing education and training programs to better prepare the workforce today and in the future.