LIFT Partners with Aluminum Extruders Council to Provide National Jobs Pipeline for “Operation Next” Graduates

Wauconda, IL.  LIFT, the Detroit-based, Department of Defense-supported national manufacturing innovation institute, today announced a new education and workforce development partnership with the Aluminum Extruders Council (AEC).

The collaboration will establish a nationwide pipeline for jobs in the aluminum extrusion industry for graduates of LIFT’s Operation Next® training initiative for active-duty military members transitioning to civilian careers, members of the National Guard and Reserve, along with their spouses and immediate family members. As part of the partnership, AEC members have committed to granting Operation Next graduates interviews for open positions at their organizations around the country.

Operation Next, currently available in 13 states and territories, provides an accelerated-hybrid program that combines online education with hands-on training to earn nationally portable, industry-recognized credentials for in-demand careers in advanced manufacturing – including Industrial Technologies Maintenance (ITM), Robotics, Computer Numeric Control (CNC) and Welding.

The partnership with AEC will bring new and expanded employment opportunities for Operation Next program graduates across the nation through AEC’s U.S. members, including more than 50 Extruder Member companies and their 85 plants located across 36 states, focused on such industries as:

·       Automotive & Transportation ·       Industrial Components
·       Building & Construction ·       Healthcare Equipment
·       Consumer Products ·       Military & Aerospace
·       Energy, Electrical & Electronics ·       Infrastructure and more


The extrusion industry comprises 25-30% of all aluminum production, and it is estimated that U.S. aluminum extruders shipped more than 6 billion pounds of aluminum profiles (extruded shapes) to various markets in 2022.

“The AEC has been a long-time member of LIFT, and we saw the opportunity to support not just our industry members, but also our service members, by connecting AEC to Operation Next graduates to fill key positions in Council member companies,” said AEC President Jeff Henderson. “These service members and their families have sacrificed so much, and the least we can do is ensure they have an opportunity to interview for open positions.” Henderson explains the AEC’s mandate through the Council’s four main strategic initiatives: “1.) Promote the industry and its products, 2.) Educate, train and help our members to become better extruders, 3.) Protect the North American market from unfairly traded and cheap imports, and 4.) Recruit, train, and keep safe our industry employees.”

Like the rest of the manufacturing sector, many companies in the aluminum extrusion industry continue to struggle to find the right talent and skills needed to maintain and grow their businesses.

“Aluminum extruders have been investing in new technology, upgrading and automating operations to satisfy the increased need for aluminum extrusions by various market sectors. Our members no longer just extrude shapes, but increasingly machine and assemble those shapes to provide components and assemblies to our customers,” said Duncan Crowdis of Alexandria Industries, Alexandria, MN, and Chair of the AEC’s Workforce Development Steering Committee. “This especially includes the automotive and transportation sector, highlighted by OEMs’ and tier suppliers’ requirements for battery electric vehicle and infrastructure components. This partnership with LIFT’s Operation Next program will go a long way to help fulfill the need for the skilled labor manufacturers are seeking. Former military personnel who graduate from the Operation Next program have the much-needed skills and the discipline, drive, and work ethic that ideally translate to many of the functions within aluminum extrusion operations.”

“Every year an estimated 200,000 service members transition out of the military with skills transferrable to industry,” said Marianne Donoghue, senior director of talent programs at LIFT. “Our partnership with AEC will provide exciting opportunities for finding jobs to begin advanced manufacturing careers that are in such great demand.”

It is estimated that nearly 2.5 million manufacturing workers will be needed to fill vacant positions by 2028.

About LIFT

LIFT, operated by the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute, is the Detroit-based, public-private partnership between the Department of Defense, industry, and academia, committed to the development and deployment of advanced manufacturing technologies, and implementing talent development initiatives to better prepare the workforce today and in the future. LIFT funded in part by the Department of Defense with management through the Office of Naval Research. Visit follow on LinkedIn at LIFT or on Twitter @NewsFromLIFT to learn more.

About AEC

The Aluminum Extruders Council (AEC) is a progressive trade association dedicated to advancing the effective use of aluminum extrusion in North America.  AEC is committed to bringing comprehensive information about extrusion’s characteristics, applications, environmental benefits, design and technology to users, product designers, engineers and the academic community.  Further, AEC is focused on enhancing the ability of its members to meet the emerging demands of the market through sharing knowledge and best practices.  For more information, visit and follow AEC on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.