Success Stories

Blake, Class of 2016

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Blake joined the Marine Corps right out of high school, and not unlike many Veterans, he enlisted because he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with the rest of his life upon graduation. He experienced one deployment in Afghanistan in 2013 and one in Iraq in 2015. He got married and had a son during his time enlisted, which is what led him to transition back into civilian life after 4 years.

“When I enlisted I signed up to be an electrician and ended up being a combat engineer, so I was working with explosives. I was enlisted for 4 years and now I’m in the National Guard and a machinist in my civilian job. I really liked the Military, it just isn’t the best for family. Between the two deployments I have been away a lot and missed a lot, such as my wife’s pregnancy.”

Workshops for Warriors allowed Blake to not have to go back into the same Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) code. Because of the training and nationally recognized qualifications he earned in the welding program at Workshops for Warriors, the National Guard offered Blake a $7,500 sign up bonus.

“They transferred me over so I’m still a sergeant, and I have done 3 drills so far. My first was a teaching test, then an administrative test, then another teaching test. I’ll probably get a second MOS soon working in the recovery section in the support unit. I think that’s where I’ll eventually fit in. I’m there right now making sure people pass physical fitness tests and showing up to drill on time.” He added,

“Joining the National Guard was kind of planned. I was trying to enlist that last 6 months I was in the Marine Corps.”

After graduating from Workshops for Warriors Blake moved back to Mulberry Missouri and found work as a CNC Laser Machinist at Mack Hils Metal Fabrication. Interestingly, Blake didn’t see himself as a laser machinist, but has grown to enjoy it.

“I figured I’d be operating mills and lathes, but because metalworking slows down in the wintertime, I got several interviews who all liked me and my credentials, but they couldn’t hire me at that time.” He added, “I didn’t learn how to operate a laser at Workshops for Warriors, but for the most part, the basics of operating a CNC machine is like driving a car. There are different bells and whistles so it takes a while, but I’ll learn how to drive it after a week or two. I know everything about it now.”

Attending Workshops for Warriors as a Machining & Welding Student

For Blake, attending Workshops for Warriors was an easy decision. He was a Veteran for about two months while he was taking courses in machining and then stayed for a second semester to take the welding course.

“My thought process was already built. I have a wife and a son so I have two extra mouths to feed. I wanted to get a job right out of the Marine Corps. So that’s enough incentive for any. I heard about it from one of my buddies who said he loved this course and that I should ask first sergeant if I could go, so I looked into it and on the website.” He added,

“The programs and the success rates for jobs after completion really sparked my interest. I live in one of the poorest parts of the country, so you don’t really make any money here. Machining and welding are trades that allow me to be able to support family and be home every night, so I always thought of this as a potential career. I really liked the military, but that is really the stability I wanted for my family once I transitioned out.”

Aside from finding a career where he could be successful in his small town in Missouri, he talked about how beneficial it was to attend Workshops for Warriors because he was going to school with other Veterans and Transitioning Service Members.

“It’s definitely an awesome program and it’s nice that Veterans get to go to school with other Veterans. I know a lot of veterans that go to school or college and they struggle because they can’t adapt. They go straight out of the Marine Corps and just can’t do it mentally. It definitely provides a cushion between the hard wall that is the civilian world. It definitely prepared me. It was a blessing honestly.”

Blake continued to explain that in his small town of Mulberry, he is down south 8 hours from the next welding school in Missouri. There is one school about 200 miles away that will teach you anything about CNC machining, and it takes two years.

“When they look at my certifications they say ‘holy shit when can you start?’”

When asked what advice he would have for other Veterans considering a similar career path, he honed in on those going back to the Midwest.

“It’s a great course. As a Veteran out there who isn’t sure what to do with their life, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. There will always be a need for certified, hard working men and women in the metalworking fields. It was pretty easy for me to get a job in the Midwest—you’ll get a job easy with these certifications.”

Blake earned the following nationally recognized credentials at Workshops for Warriors:

  • National Institute for Metalworking Skills: CNC Milling: Programming, Setup & Operations
  • National Institute for Metalworking Skills: CNC Turning: Programming, Setup & Operations
  • National Institute for Metalworking Skills: CNC Turning Skills II
  • National Institute for Metalworking Skills: Measurement, Materials & Safety
  • 2 Shielded Metal Arc Welding qualifications through the American Welding Society (AWS)
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