Operation Next Advanced Manufacturing Certification Available for Service Members and Spouses in Hampton Roads Region

LIFT’s “Operation Next” expands to support the region’s over 80,000 active-duty military members and their families.

NORFOLK, Va. – LIFT, the Detroit-based, Department of Defense-supported national manufacturing innovation institute, in partnership with the Maritime Industrial Base Ecosystem (MIBE), Old Dominion University, the Hampton Roads Workforce Council and the Community College Workforce Cooperative, today announced its “Operation Next” advanced manufacturing certification program is being made available to active-duty service members in the region and their spouses.

Pam Northam, First Lady of Virginia, announces Operation Next kicks off in Hampton Roads, Virginia.

Operation Next is an innovative, self-paced, advanced manufacturing-focused training initiative, which blends hand

s-on and virtual learning, giving service members and their spouses the opportunity to earn a credential in many of the most in-demand advanced manufacturing jobs, including welding and CNC machining – at minimal or no cost to them. Credentialing opportunities in Industrial Technology Maintenance and Robotics are expected to be available in the near future.

Following in the footsteps of the Biden Administration’s “Joining Forces” initiative to support “the military and veteran communities through economic and entrepreneurship opportunities for military spouses,” LIFT and Operation Next are putting an additional focus on military families.

“As an army family we felt privileged to serve our country; however living in multiple states and countries meant constant challenges in my career,” said Virginia First Lady Pamela Northam. “We are so grateful to those who serve, and we must ensure our transitioning service members and spouses are connected to all available opportunities, such as Operation Next.”

“This Operation Next initiative is critical to provide military families with training for in-demand jobs and help them recover from the impacts of COVID-19,” said U.S. Senator Tim Kaine. “I’m very glad to see that this program is both supporting the military families who support us and helping our economy thrive. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I’ll keep working to improve job opportunities for our servicemembers and their spouses.”

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine helps kick off Operation Next in Hampton Roads, Virginia.


The Hampton Roads region, home to more than 80,000 active-duty service members, is the first new region to offer Operation Next to enlisted members since the program completed a successful initial pilot at Fort Campbell, Kentucky in 2019. Today’s expansion announcement is part of Operation Next’s ongoing and planned expansion to nine new military installations. The initiative is also being made available to National Guard and Reserve members and spouses in Michigan, Florida, and Wisconsin, all with funding provided by the Department of Defense Manufacturing Engineering Education Program.

Making the program available to active-duty spouses is critical. According to the Department of Defense’s 2019 Active-Duty Spouse Survey, 22% of military spouses are unemployed. That number worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic when 34% of military spouses reported that they had lost their jobs between April and December 2020.

MIBE will recruit service members 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), American Welding Society (AWS) or the Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA).

“Old Dominion University is proud to work with the Commonwealth Department of Military Affairs and LIFT through Operation Next to connect service members and their spouses with educational opportunities and at the same time, work with our regional industry partners to develop a skilled workforce,” said Dr. Morris Foster, vice president for research, Old Dominion University.

“Our military veteran employees are disciplined, dedicated, and demonstrate a strong work ethic. For these reasons, separating service members are always a top choice for our recruiters,” said Susan Jacobs, Newport News Shipbuilding vice president of Human Resources and Administration. “We look forward to a productive partnership with Operation NEXT that will help Newport News Shipbuilding and our exiting military service members bridge the gap from serving our country on the front lines to supporting our nation’s defense from the waterfront.”

“We have long known that our military members have the leadership, commitment and skills to have successful careers in advanced manufacturing, and their spouses deserve such opportunities as well,” said Nigel Francis, chief executive officer and executive director, LIFT. “As a Department of Defense national manufacturing innovation institute, we drive American manufacturing into the future through technology and talent development. The exceptional talent here in Hampton Roads will help us further that mission and goal for this country.”

In addition to Operation Next’s expansion, the program is currently being piloted in industry to support small- and medium-sized manufacturers in Detroit and Pittsburgh, helping them recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. 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.

Interested servicemembers and their families can enroll at



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 or follow on LinkedIn at LIFT or on Twitter @NewsFromLIFT to learn more.



Old Dominion University, located in Norfolk, is Virginia’s forward-focused public doctoral research university with more than 23,000 students, rigorous academics, an energetic residential community and initiatives that contribute $2.6 billion annually to Virginia’s economy.


MIBE mobilizes regional partnerships needed to help Hampton Roads expand its maritime sustainment and modernization capabilities. We apply innovative solutions to performance gaps through an agile team of 21st-century maritime stakeholders across a 2,800-square-mile Atlantic industrial ecosystem.

MIBE is committed to helping ensure a ready, relevant Navy, branding Hampton Roads as a national center of digitally-enabled naval/commercial maritime skills and aligning with coastal commercial port and offshore wind leadership.  For more information visit