New training program prepares veterans to enter advanced manufacturing workforce

While 26-year-old wounded veteran Joseph Grabianowski has inspired Americans with his harrowing war story, someday he may be nationally known for building highly efficient exhaust systems for cars and trucks using 3D printing technology. Grabianowski is part of the Energy Department’s inaugural Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Advanced Manufacturing Internship. The pilot program is designed to provide accelerated, hands-on career training for veterans and next-generation engineers to prepare them to immediately enter the workforce of the growing advanced manufacturing industry.

Grabianowski stepped on an IED while deployed with his Army unit in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, in May 2012. Damage from the blast required a rare, radical amputation of his lower body. He had long dreamed of being a U.S. Marshal but knew his path would now lead in a new direction. In a December 2013 interview with USA Today, Grabianowski said, “I still love my country…even though I can’t go be a Marshal now, I can still go do something that would be a good service to my country.”

Barely two years later, his successful recovery is a testament to his personal will and determination.  This self-proclaimed techie now envisions a career for himself in what he calls the “future of manufacturing,” which is additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing. Through this pioneering program offered by the Energy Department’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, ORAU, Pellissippi State Community College and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Grabianowski is receiving the training needed to make his career goals a reality and prepare him to succeed in the additive manufacturing world.

“Where this industry is going to boom is right here in Oak Ridge,” said Grabianowski, “and the best engineers in the field are available through this program to teach me.”

The six-week program, which began in early July, includes a combination of classroom courses taught at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tenn., and hands-on laboratory activities at ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Participants learn to design for advanced manufacturing needs and are educated on 3D printers, fabrication techniques, and materials including titanium, carbon fiber, ABS plastics and other composites.

“The science behind additive manufacturing is fascinating, but it really comes down to the feeling of how great it would be to help people,” said Grabianowski.  ”I see a future in this industry, and I can serve my country by learning the technology and software to build 3D-printed exhaust systems for cars and trucks that will save Americans millions in fuel costs someday.”

According to Robert Ivester, Ph.D., deputy director in the Energy Department’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, this program is the first step in building a better system for providing veterans with timely training opportunities that will give them a competitive advantage when returning to the workforce.

“There is a skills gap in advanced manufacturing,” said Ivester. “Programs like this will provide trained workers quickly to meet our national priorities including the resurgence of manufacturing in the United States and effectively leveraging the existing skill base of transitioning service members. This program is only the first step, and we are actively seeking partners for a broader effort moving forward.”

This first program will end with a job fair at ORAU’s Pollard Technology Conference Center in Oak Ridge on August 14 and a graduation ceremony held at Pellissippi State Community College on August 15.

“The response to the program was more than we had hoped,” said Dean Evasius, senior vice president of ORAU’s workforce development programs. “Within a few days of opening the program, we had applications from all over the United States.” A diverse group was selected for the pilot program, including 15 Army, Navy or Marine veterans, three active duty personnel, two reservists, three FIRST Robotics students, and two undergraduate engineering students. “The job fair that ORAU is hosting will assist those participants who are ready to enter the advanced manufacturing workforce,” said Evasius.