Per the CDC's recommendations on social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis, most LIFT staff is working remotely until Monday, July 6.
If you need assistance, please contact
Member Login

LIFT: Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow

LIFT: Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow

Operation Next

“Operation Next”: Preparing Military Personnel for Careers in Advanced Manufacturing

Developed by LIFT and launched as a pilot at Fort Campbell, Kentucky in early 2018, Operation Next is an innovative, manufacturing-focused training and credentialing initiative. Operation Next provides a blended learning program to soldiers within their last six months of service, but while still on active duty, resulting in the individual earning one or more nationally portable, standards-based, industry recognized credentials. At Fort Campbell, Operation Next offers two training tracks: Computerized Numerical Control (CNC) Machine Operation and Industrial Technology Maintenance (ITM). These training programs lead to a credential – from the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) – that validates the individual is
prepared for the most in-demand manufacturing jobs in our country.

The innovative design of Operation Next is evident in the following program steps:

  • Connection to Separating Military: Working with base leadership, Operation Next is presented as an exceptional
    opportunity for transitioning service members to gain in-demand technical skills and move directly to good jobs with
    competitive wages upon separation.
  • Introduction to Advanced Manufacturing Careers: With area employers, Chambers of Commerce and other partners,
    individuals can tour manufacturing facilities, meet with company leadership and discuss manufacturing job and career
  • Self-Assessment: At the start of the program and in each module throughout the training, students can earn ‘credit’ for
    what they already know and can do. Each student’s journey through the program is customized to their background,
    knowledge and experience.
  • Selection of Major: Armed with a new understanding and appreciation for the manufacturing sector, participants select
    their preferred program of study: CNC Machining or ITM.
  • Self-Paced Concept Training and Simulated Hands-on Learning: The training, including simulated hands-on
    application, requires only a computer and an internet connection and can be done anywhere and anytime the individual
    has after completing duty assignments.
  • Hands-on Application and Skills Assessment: As milestones are reached in the online learning, the individual is
    triggered to schedule hands-on lab activities with nearby college partners for applied learning on real world
    manufacturing equipment.
  • Credential Earned: Once the student has worked through all the learning modules and completes learning and practice
    time on the equipment, their performance is assessed and the NIMS credential in their chosen field is conferred.
  • Transition to In-Demand Manufacturing Jobs: Operation Next students are engaged with employers throughout their
    training, creating the relationships that result in rapid employment opportunities after separation.

The goal of the Fort Campbell pilot was 101 soldiers (in honor of the 101st Airborne headquartered at Campbell) completing
the Operation Next training, earning their credential and moving into a civilian career in advanced manufacturing. The pilot goal has been achieved. As of September 2019, 101 soldiers are either currently in training or have already graduated and earned one or more credentials. Of those who have completed their training and earned a credential, 87% have accepted a job in advanced manufacturing. Those who have not yet accepted a civilian job offer have elected instead to build on what they have learned through Operation Next and continue their education.

Given the success of the pilot and the continued acute need for an advanced manufacturing workforce with both
technical and foundational employability skills, the imperative now is to expand and scale Operation Next.

For more information about Operation Next, contact: Emily DeRocco at  or Eileen Pickett.

Visit the Operation Next Website


These Graduates are Ready for Employment!

Adrian Guajardo

Served 10 years in the US Army

NIMS Certified-Electrical Systems Industrial Technology Maintenance Level I

Currently Enrolled at Nashville State


Timothy Short

Served 8 years in the US Army

CNC Machine Operator
NIMS CNC Lathe Operator
NIMS CNC Milling Operator
NIMS Measurement, Materials, & Safety
NIMS Job Planning, Benchwork, & Layout

Currently employed at LIFT-Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow


Joshua Waterhouse

Served 6 years in the US Army

NIMS Certified – Industrial Technology Maintenance
Electrical Systems and Maintenance Operations

Now Available for Employment



Duria Hannah

Served 6 years in the US Army

NIMS CNC Lathe Operator
NIMS CNC Milling Operator
NIMS Measurement, Materials, & Safety
NIMS Job Planning, Benchwork, & Layout

Currently employed at Gulfstream Aerospace


Contact Operation Next to Learn More


Latest News From the Operation Next Program

LIFT Announces First Graduating Students from its “Operation Next” Program




LIFT Announces First Graduating Students from its “Operation Next” Program, Welcomes First Graduate Home to Michigan