Florida National Guard and Reserve Offered Opportunity for Advanced Manufacturing Certification

LIFT’s “Operation Next” expands to support Florida military members

DETROIT – LIFT, the Detroit-based, Department of Defense-supported national manufacturing innovation institute, today announced its “Operation Next” advanced manufacturing certification program is being made available to members of the Florida National Guard and Reserve and their spouses.

Operation Next is an innovative, self-paced, manufacturing-focused training and credentialing initiative, which blends hands-on and virtual learning. Florida Guard and Reserve members are, following the State of Michigan, now able to take part in the program after it completed its successful initial pilot for separating military personnel at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. Operation Next is expanding to nine additional military installations, additionally providing training opportunities for military spouses, adding new curriculum offerings, and opening the program to members of the Guard and Reserve, all with funding provided by the Department of Defense Manufacturing Engineering Education Program.

Valencia College in Orlando will recruit members of the Florida Guard and Reserve 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) or the American Welding Society (AWS). Valencia is home to Accelerated Skills Training programs which focus on intensive, hands-on training designed to help individuals enter a new career field or advance their current skillset to enter the workforce in well-paid and in-demand advanced manufacturing jobs.

“Our Accelerated Skills Training program makes Valencia College an ideal partner for LIFT and Operation Next,” said Mike Kepner, Director, Advanced Manufacturing Programs, at Valencia College. “We are proud to be able to expand these opportunities to the men and women of Florida who have been serving their state so admirably for years.”

“Members of the Guard and Reserve tend to get forgotten when new initiatives are created for veterans or servicemembers,” said Joe Marino, Executive Director Veterans Florida. “We are delighted for this new opportunity to help them earn in-demand advanced manufacturing credentials through an innovative program like Operation Next and Valencia College, one of our top educational facilities.”

“Our military members have the leadership, commitment and motivational skills our advanced manufacturing sector needs, particularly the National Guard and Reserve who are ready, willing and able to work in their local economies – including Florida’s ‘Space Coast,’” said Nigel Francis, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, LIFT. “As a Department of Defense-sponsored national manufacturing innovation institute, our goal is to drive American manufacturing into the future through technology and talent development, and bringing Operation Next to Florida keeps us on that mission.”

“The availability of the Operation Next certification program to Florida National Guard and Reserve members is exciting both for these servicemen and women and their families, and for Florida’s manufacturing industry,” said CareerSource Florida Senior Vice President of Business and Workforce Development Andra Cornelius, CEcD. “A strong advanced manufacturing industry is important to Florida’s economic diversification, and bringing Operation Next to Central Florida will accelerate efforts to build a talent pipeline of qualified, skilled military veterans who help this key industry sector grow and our state’s businesses compete globally.”

Operation Next continues to expand in other areas of the country. Recently, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, LIFT announced that “Operation Next” was being expanded into industry to support small and medium-sized manufacturers to help them recover from the COVID-19 pandemic in Detroit and Pittsburgh. 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.

Learn more about Operation Next at