U.S. Bank salutes Workshops for Warriors

November 01, 2021

Innovative program helps rebuild American manufacturing and the lives of veterans​.

There are passion projects – and then there are “work every waking hour, sell everything you own, and don’t take a paycheck for years,” passion projects.

For husband-and-wife team Hernán and Rachel Luis y Prado, the nonprofit they founded, Workshops for Warriors® (WFW) was of the latter variety.

Hernán served in the U.S. Navy for 15 years, including three combat tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was spurred into starting WFW after witnessing firsthand that improved combat medical care meant that deployed U.S. military members were returning home alive at higher rates than ever before, but the influx of wounded warriors brought home the devastation of war in new and visceral ways.

WFW literally started in Hernán’s garage in 2008, based on an observation that as he opened up his home workshop to his peers returning from war, it seemed that the new skills they were learning gave a renewed sense of purpose and facilitated confidence while navigating re-entry into civilian life. The program evolved into a 16-week training course in both machining and welding, enabling students to earn portable and stackable credentials. More than 9,000 credentials have been earned by the nearly 1,000 veterans and transitioning service members who have graduated or are currently in the program.

“Our veterans are great at helping the transitioning enlisted students seamlessly evolve into civilian life, and overall, the students are there for each other in a way that only peers with shared lived experiences can be,” said Luis y Prado. “Workshops for Warriors offers a network and informal support system that also facilitates success.”

Of the students enrolling in WFW’s programs, 98% were classified as low-to moderate-income households in San Diego. After just four months of training, 95% of WFW graduates are hired into careers with an average starting salary of $60,000 at major companies across the country such as Tesla, Boeing, Facebook, and SpaceX.

Skilled machinists and welders are a rapidly aging population in the U.S. that has not been adequately replaced, and demand for knowledgeable and trained advanced manufacturing labor is high. WFW is the only accredited school in the nation to provide training at no out-of-pocket cost to veterans and eligible students.

U.S. Bank has been a consistent supporter of WFW with volunteer time, and financial support since 2016.

“In 2021, U.S. Bank doubled our philanthropic support to Workshops for Warriors, with the increased funding dedicated to outreach efforts, scholarships, and living stipends for female veterans,” said Rockette Ewell, vice president and community affairs manager at U.S. Bank in San Diego. “We want our investments in the community to create equity and access and are excited that we can help Workshops for Warriors reach more women veterans.”

Greg Altman, a U.S. Bank district manager in San Diego, has served on the WFW advisory board for more than a decade and has assisted with coordinating U.S. Bank volunteer support at events such as the annual gala, and, at the monthly food distribution that WFW facilitates in the community.

“With Hernán and Rachel at the helm, this organization functions much like a supportive family – when there is a need, everyone puts their heads together and figures it out,” Altman said. “If students need temporary shelter, a meal, professional interview clothes, or whatever it might be, Workshops for Warriors is committed to serving our servicemembers.”

Though the program and its results are impressive, visitors to the WFW facility are left with another impression too – this is a labor of love, one that is as much about creating community, comradery, and care as it is about producing fiscal outcomes. Workshops for Warriors goes above and beyond to ensure all students have food, housing, and clothing. “No one goes hungry here,” said Rachel Luis y Prado.

Walking through the facility, students excitedly reference the end-of-semester career fair, anxious to demonstrate their new skills to future prospective employers. It’s a goal that appeals to the military mission-driven mindset. There is a target in sight, the students have their marching orders, and they light up when they talk about it.

“From battle-tested to bankable advanced manufacturing skills, WFW is helping to power the potential of veterans and transitioning service members, and U.S. Bank is proud to be a part of it, on Veteran’s Day, and every day,” said Altman.

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