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Operation Next Advanced Manufacturing Certification Available For Service Members And Spouses In Hampton Roads

LIFT, the Detroit-based, Department of Defense-supported national manufacturing innovation institute, in partnership with the Maritime Industrial Base Ecosystem (MIBE), Old Dominion University, the Hampton Roads Workforce Council, and the Community College Workforce Cooperative, recently announced its “Operation Next” advanced manufacturing certification program is being made available to active-duty service members in the region and their spouses.

Operation Next is an innovative, self-paced, advanced manufacturing-focused training initiative, which blends hands-on and virtual learning, giving service members and their spouses the opportunity to earn a credential in many of the most in-demand advanced manufacturing jobs, including welding and CNC machining—at minimal or no cost to them. Credentialing opportunities in Industrial Technology Maintenance and Robotics are expected to be available in the near future.

Following in the footsteps of the Biden Administration’s “Joining Forces” initiative to support “the military and veteran communities through economic and entrepreneurship opportunities for military spouses,” LIFT and Operation Next are putting an additional focus on military families.

“This Operation Next initiative is critical to provide military families with training for in-demand jobs and help them recover from the impacts of COVID-19,” said U.S. Senator Tim Kaine. “I’m very glad to see that this program is both supporting the military families who support us and helping our economy thrive. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I’ll keep working to improve job opportunities for our servicemembers and their spouses.”

The Hampton Roads region, home to more than 80,000 active-duty service members, is the first new region to offer Operation Next to enlisted members since the program completed a successful initial pilot at Fort Campbell, Kentucky in 2019. The recent expansion announcement is part of Operation Next’s ongoing and planned expansion to nine new military installations. The initiative is also being made available to National Guard and Reserve members and spouses in Michigan, Florida, and Wisconsin, all with funding provided by the Department of Defense Manufacturing Engineering Education Program. 

Making the program available to active-duty spouses is critical. According to the Department of Defense’s 2019 Active-Duty Spouse Survey, 22 percent of military spouses are unemployed. That number worsened during the covid-19 pandemic when 34 percent of military spouses reported that they had lost their jobs between April and December 2020.

MIBE will recruit service members and their spouses to enroll in the Operation Next program and will guide students through their educational experience to the attainment of nationally portable and industry-recognized credentials from either the National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS), American Welding Society (AWS) or the Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA).

“Our military veteran employees are disciplined, dedicated, and demonstrate a strong work ethic,” said Susan Jacobs, Newport News Shipbuilding vice president of Human Resources and Administration. “For these reasons, separating service members is always a top choice for our recruiters. We look forward to a productive partnership with Operation NEXT that will help Newport News Shipbuilding and our existing military service members bridge the gap from serving our country on the front lines to supporting our nation’s defense from the waterfront.”

In addition to Operation Next’s expansion, the program is currently being piloted in industry to support small- and medium-sized manufacturers in Detroit and Pittsburgh, helping them recover from the covid-19 pandemic. That expansion is funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and was awarded to LIFT by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

“We have long known that our military members have the leadership, commitment, and skills to have successful careers in advanced manufacturing, and their spouses deserve such opportunities as well,” said Nigel Francis, chief executive officer and executive director, LIFT. “As a Department of Defense national manufacturing innovation institute, we drive American manufacturing into the future through technology and talent development. The exceptional talent here in Hampton Roads will help us further that mission and goal for this country.”

Interested service members and their families can enroll at

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