East Carolina University has launched a crash course for veterans to learn modern manufacturing skills.
The two-week pilot program started Monday morning. The courses, which are free to veterans, are designed to help them reintegrate and work in North Carolina when they complete their service.
"What we've come to understand is that veterans bring to the workforce a vast resource of knowledge and training that can be deployed, especially in an advanced manufacturing environment; leadership skills, for instance, and technical skills, especially," says Ruthann Cage of ECU's Office of Innovation and Economic Development.
The unemployment rate for veterans has dropped sharply this year. The jobless rate for post-9/11 veterans fell to less than the national average in June, at 7.2 percent.
Creators of the program say as they've learned more about reintegration, they've noticed there's a short window of opportunity to get veterans back in the workforce and prevent them from succumbing to substance abuse or run-ins with the law.
"If you're under-engaged, idle or facing any of life's challenges, which might be a health issue, family issue or - the one that hits us most quickly - an economic issue because you're unemployed, clearly we can all begin to spin in a downward spiral," says Dr. Ted Morris, director of the ECU Champions of Freedom, which is funding the project.
"And if you're carrying some of the extra issues that veterans often times are, it's possible that's aggravated."
Veterans who complete the program can earn up to three certifications that qualify them for a variety of manufacturing jobs. ECU hopes to offer six courses of about 20 students over the next year at community colleges near North Carolina's military bases.