After Celeste Carvdjal graduated from high school in 2019, she wasn’t sure what her next step would be, whether she would pursue higher education or jump right into the workforce.

“One day my grandmother was giving me a lecture about how I never do anything, and when that came to an end, she put a flyer on my desk,” said Carvdjal.

The flyer, it turns out, was promoting the Next Generation Manufacturing Training (NGMT) program, a free, hands-on, three-month course that prepares low-income local residents with no prior manufacturing experience for entry level, living-wage jobs. The training is led by the non-profit Humanmade in their state-of-the-art makerspace at 150 Hooper Street in San Francisco’s Design District. SFMade, which is committed to improving equity and inclusion in the manufacturing industry by training those that are underrepresented in the industry, is Humanmade’s workforce partner, with support from the Office of Economic and Workforce Development and the Mayor’s Office.

Training in advanced manufacturing—manufacturing that uses automation, sensing and other digital technologies to increase efficiency and precision—caught Carvdjal’s attention as something she might enjoy doing. She applied to the program’s CNC machining track (the other track is in 3D printing) and within weeks was accepted and on her way to becoming skilled as a CNC machine operator.

In the intensive 12-week, four-hours-a-day, five-days-a-week program, Carvdjal learned how to operate machinery as well as the fundamentals of reading blueprints and using CAD/CAM computer software.

Carvdjal thrived in the technical aspects of the work. She also gained career skills in resume preparation, job interviewing, financial management, and work etiquette. By the time she was ready to graduate from the program, she had demonstrated proficiency in many of the hard and soft skills that employers look for in job candidates.

And because the NGMT program was designed holistically as a workforce program—one that not only provides training but also connects trainees with potential employers—she was immediately competitive in the job market.

SFMade serves as a kind of matchmaker for the NGMT program, finding matches between trainees and employers. Around the time Carvdjal was about to graduate, SFMade’s Workforce & Youth Program Coordinator George Colón was contacted by Wickert Beasly, owner of Intrinsic Body, a San Francisco company that uses advanced manufacturing to make body jewelry, who was looking for skilled candidates for an open position.

Colón believed he could find a good fit among the current cohort of NGMT trainees and reached out to Humanmade, who connected him with Carvdjal. And the rest, as they say, is history. She applied for the position, was hired soon after, and in December 2020 celebrated one year at the company. Wickert describes Carvdjal as a very hard-working employee who is great at her job.

“I feel lucky to have the Next Generation Manufacturing Training program nearby,” said Wickert.

Intrinsic is not the only San Francisco Bay Area manufacturer who is leveraging the program for talent. In the past eight months, Topology Eyewear has hired three graduates and Oakland’s 3D Fab Light has hired two.

“At Topology the graduates are using the CAD and 3D printing skills they learned in the NGMT program,” said Colón. “Topology is in regular contact with us and is really making an effort to consider graduates for job openings.”

The NGMT program has made great strides in its first year and a half, with almost 40% of its graduates successfully connected to jobs in the manufacturing industry. Graduates are qualified for positions such as CNC Machine Operator, Assembler, Technician, or Machine Maintenance. The newest batch of trainees will graduate with a certification in Autodesk Associate for 2.5 Axis Milling or Associate for CAD for Mechanical Design. Credentials like these can make a big difference in the way that employers view the skills gained in the program, said Colón.

And with new sessions starting every few months, there is no shortage of skilled talent coming out of the program.

“At any one time we have nearly 40 graduates actively looking for jobs in advanced manufacturing, and we have another 15 to 20 who will be graduating in a handful of weeks,” said Colón. “There’s still a good amount of talent looking for opportunities in the Bay Area.”