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Pitt Program Helps Wounded Warriors Find Jobs in Machining

After months — or even years — on the battlefield, injured active-duty military personnel and rehabilitating veterans return home to face their next battle: finding a new job.

The University of Pittsburgh’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) is trying to help them win that battle with a new program that trains them in machining.

The Fabrication of Assistive Technology (FATe) Program was created by HERL Director Dr. Rory Cooper and HERL Education and Outreach Project Director Mary Goldberg.

Cooper said the unemployment rate among veterans is about twice that of their peers.

“Unemployment among veterans with disabilities is even higher than it is with veterans without disabilities … so getting great training in a career area where there are lots of jobs available is one way we hope to address that,” Cooper said.

FATe will teach the GIs and veterans different skills needed to succeed in a machining career ranging from learning to use a lathe to learning to program a Computer Numerical Control machine.

“It will have both a theoretical component, so a little bit of a classroom component, as well as hands-on fabrication so they’ll have to fabricate various components with different machines as they go along,” Cooper said.

Because the program is aimed at veterans and military members with disabilities, the labs used will have high-low work stations and adjustable wheel chairs.

Once the students finish the 16-week program, they will take an exam testing their new machining skills and participate in on-the-job training at local companies in hopes of receiving a full-time position.

Cooper and Goldberg are working with Catalyst Connection, the State Department of Labor and Industry and various military employers to find jobs for their students.

Cooper said FATe originated from a program for the Wounded Warriors in which they transitioned from military life to college at the University of Pittsburgh.

“We discovered that some of the Wounded Warriors were interested in jobs in certain fields: science, technology, engineering and mathematics," Cooper said, "but not necessarily interested in going to college right away or not quite ready to go to college, and so they expressed an interest in learning a technical skill."

The program will cost around $25,000 per student, but Cooper hopes to have help covering that expense.

The directors of FATe are hoping to gain the support of VA Vocational Rehabilitation Education Program and the State Office of Vocational Rehabilitation to help with the tuition.

The program has already received a $100,000 grant from Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“With that money, we can get our program up and running as well as create a model for the program to be replicated at other sites around the United States, so we’re very happy that Highmark gave us this generous gift and has become a partner in helping us train Wounded Warriors for rewarding careers,” Cooper said.

The program is scheduled to start in September and the deadline to register is August 2.