From Warrior to Welder: How Ford and the United Autoworkers are Employing Veterans

wwfs-vwp-large2__largeShane Savage is a 15 year veteran of the military; 4 years in the Marines and 11 more in the Army.  Shane was discharged in May of 2015 for injuries sustained in the line of duty.    Shane faced the daunting task of finding employment after 15 years of service to his country.  Anyone who has looked for a job knows how tough it can be to get your foot in the door when you don’t have the right skill sets or experience.  What makes Shane’s story even more extraordinary is that the wounds he sustained in combat left him with a prosthetic leg and terrible tremors in his hands.

Army veteran Charles Carlin and Marine veteran Steve Coak with instructor Frank Hribar

Veterans often face major struggles when trying to join the work force, even if they don’t have physical injuries like Shane.  “There’s a stigma attached to PTSD and traumatic brain injury and other hidden disabilities that people may assume soldiers have when they’re leaving the military,” says Nancy B. Adams, branch chief at the U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command. “They may always have that at the back of their mind.” Because of these perceptions, finding employment in competitive, high paying jobs can be a constant struggle for veterans.

To help find high paying, competitive skilled jobs for veterans, Ford Motor Company has teamed up with the Wounded Warrior Project and the United Auto Workers Union to offer the Veteran’s Welding Training Program.  The program, located near Detroit, trains veterans in welding skills including GMAW (MIG), GTAW (TIG), and SMAW (Stick) as well as other fabrication and welding skills.  After the program, veterans are prepared for jobs with the UAW, Ironworkers, or other fabrication jobs.  Ernesto Gomez, a veteran who participated in the program, commented on how welcoming it was to veterans: “Every day felt to me as if we were with family because of all the love and respect everyone at the training center showed us.  It was an incredible learning experience, and not one veteran wanted to end the course.”

The program also provides housing for veterans who aren’t local to the area, and a job coordinator to help veteran’s find a job straight out of the program.  So far several have been hired directly by the UAW, or accepted into other apprentice programs with other trade unions.  The program also works with the American Welding Society to give welder’s certificates allowing them to work in more job environments.

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Marine and Army Veteran Shane Savage

But what about Shane, who we first introduced?  Shane hopes to obtain a 3G welding certificate.  “You can make a lot of money in the welding industry” Shane said about the program.  “I want people to know that just because you have something that is a disability doesn’t mean you can’t do what you want to do with your life.”  Shane says it is a struggle to weld with the tremors in his hands, but with practice he has learned to control it.  “I shake which in welding can be very difficult at times.  For me it’s more of a challenge but in the grand scheme I can still accomplish my goals.  I wanted a new career path and wanted to learn something new.”

We wish Shane and all the other veteran’s success on their new path in life, and would like to thank them for their service.

If you know of a veteran who may be interested in the program, or you would like to donate, you can find a link on the Wounded Warriors Family Support Website.

To see Shane’s story, and get more information on the program watch this video.

For additional information on welding careers and unions:

United Auto Workers

American Welding Society

Court Street Ford, located at 558 William Latham Drive, is a multi-year president’s award winning dealership. We have been serving the Kankakee, Bradley, Bourbonnais area for 30 years and counting! We are committed to exceptional customer service. Stop by or give us a call at (815) 939-9600, our knowledgeable sales team and service department will be happy to help and are dedicated to providing the best experience!

About the Author:
nateNathan Frank is an internet sales consultant and the man behind Court Street Ford news since January 2015.  He has been in the car industry for several years and has an extensive knowledge of Ford products and history.
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