We recently spoke with Joe Allie, Director of Global Competency at Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation, about the company’s Academy of Advanced Manufacturing and how it helps military veterans find exciting careers in manufacturing.

Here’s what we learned during our conversation with Mr. Allie.

Q:  Tell us more about the Academy of Advanced Manufacturing—what’s the intent of this program?

A:  Rockwell Automation, in partnership with ManpowerGroup, has created The Academy of Advanced Manufacturing (AAM), in which we train military veterans for careers in high-demand technical roles. Expanding on Rockwell Automation’s highly successful Engineer in Training (EIT) program, the Academy of Advanced Manufacturing is a 12-week intensive program, designed specifically for veterans, with a curriculum that combines technical classroom training and hands-on lab experience with professional development and soft skills training.

Veterans completing the program are certified by Rockwell Automation as instrumentation, automation and controls technicians and are placed—through a formal interview process—with employers who have critical advanced manufacturing roles to fill. These employers are typically customers of Rockwell Automation who have pressing needs to augment their workforce with technically trained staff. Our program provides them with job-ready talent and eliminates the significant time and costs they would typically incur to recruit, assess and train those new hires.

Q:  Why is there a need for a program like this? Why is it so important?

A:  The U.S. manufacturing sector is predicted to produce nearly 3.5 million jobs over the next decade.  But with more than 20 percent of manufacturing workers set to retire by 2025, and new technology driving evolving skills requirements, more than two million of those jobs could go unfilled. Heading off this crisis—and keeping the U.S. competitive on the world stage—demands creative solutions for closing the skills gap and investing in a workforce able to meet the increasing demands of advanced manufacturing.

Q:  So why veterans? Why design the program for them?

A:  The most recent talent shortage surveys, along with our customers themselves, tell us that the technician role is number-five “hardest to fill” list.  This is a significant—and costly—challenge to overcome!

At the same time, roughly 200,000 men and women transition out of the military each year and return to civilian life.  Approximately one in seven of those come from highly technical disciplines within the military that equip them with skills that are translatable to advanced manufacturing. These are folks who have been in charge of complex avionics systems, nuclear weapons systems, intricate communications networks and critical logistics management, to name a few. They are talented, they are disciplined and they are highly skilled, but in many cases, may struggle to translate those skills to the civilian workplace. Our program helps them to do that.

We are extremely proud that the Academy not only serves to address this critical manufacturing challenge, but that, in doing so, we have the opportunity to give something back to the men and women who have sacrificed for our country, opening a door to a fresh start for them, with careers that offer the technical challenge they crave and the sense of purpose they have earned.

The Academy gives them an opportunity to continue their journey of service—what began with their military careers can now continue by giving them a means to apply their technical aptitudes to close a skills gap that threatens the future viability of the U.S. economy.

Q:  You’ve been running the program for just a little over a year now, right?  What kind of results have you seen?

A:  Yes, our last class graduated on Nov. 8. This was our fifth class to go through the program. In this last year, nearly 100 veterans have graduated from the Academy and embarked on new careers with tremendous companies across the U.S.; by 2020, our goal is to scale that number to 1,000 veterans per year.

Q:  Where are the jobs located?  With Rockwell Automation’s headquarters in Milwaukee, is Wisconsin one of the landing spots?

A:  Our students have the potential for placement anywhere throughout the U.S., often with global companies. This is dependent on the customers who come to us with an interest in investing in the program and finding qualified candidates from the Academy.

With that being said, we do have several students who have remained in Wisconsin after graduation, working with great employers from throughout the state. Wisconsin provides a tremendous level of veterans’ benefits, and we’re proud of our students who have found opportunities here, and grateful to the employers who have provided them.

Q:  That sounds great!  So how much does it cost for a veteran to participate in this program?  And how should they apply?

A:  Classes are conducted in our state-of-the-art facilities in Milwaukee and Cleveland, Ohio, and veterans enrolled in the Academy incur no cost to participate—in fact, we provide them with full room and board and a modest salary throughout their time in the program.

Veterans interested can apply online at experisjobs.us/veterans to start the process.

For more information on the Academy of Advanced Manufacturing’s first year view the “Pilot to Proven” video on the Academy’s LinkedIn page.