Veteran Puts Skills to Work in Civilian World

The U.S. Army classified Stephen Harris is a disabled veteran, but a Vincennes University program has made him more than able to work and earn in a high-paying, high-demand field.

Harris completed a 15-week intensive CNC (computer numeric controlled) Machinist Now program, offered through VU’s Indiana Center for Applied Technology at the Haas Technical Education Center.  The training prepared him for his current job as an A-level CNC machinist at Nidec Motors in Princeton, Indiana.

“It’s an amazing program,” Harris says. “It’s almost like they roll out the red carpet for veterans, or really anyone in the [machinist] industry.”

Why he joined the army: Born in Indiana and raised in Texas, Harris joined the army after nearly dropping out of high school. “I was a horrible child, a horrible teenager,” he confesses. “Next thing I knew, I was married with a child on the way. So I joined the army.”

Transition to civilian life: After being injured in an accident, Harris was discharged from the army and returned to civilian life at Vincennes. He was helping to raise and support five children from two marriages and began a career in the restaurant business, working in management for corporate-owned chains. The demands of restaurant management had begun taking a toll when, in 2014, his city councilman told him about the CNC Machinist Now program. Harris had scored highly in mechanical aptitude on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, so the program was appealing. Harris was not only accepted, but also received a scholarship from the Gene Haas Foundation to help position to cover the program’s $8,000 tuition. He was placed in
an internship with Nidec Motors.
“It was a challenging position program, and I felt an experience gap, but not too much,” Harris says. “The course got me very prepared for the workforce.”

Future plans: At age 39, Harris has transitioned into his new career and hopes to start a tool and die apprenticeship in addition to his machinist credentials and experience. At Nidec, he uses what he’s learned to manufacture parts for warehouse robots, engines, copy machines and other products. “I can’t describe to you the amount of compassion the CNC Now program shows toward veterans, and the passion for the industry,” Harris says. “It’s just an incredible program and an incredible industry.”

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