A Wagga-lead initiative, forging skilled ex-servicemen and women outside the military has sparked state-wide interest.
The TAFE-run welding course, designed for defence force veterans has been adopted across NSW, with similar programs starting in Sydney and Newcastle.
It follows the launch of the fourth course in Wagga this week and comes ahead of Veterans Health Week, later this month.
The program is “taking steps to improve the help and support available to veterans”, according to its founder.
Former army maritime sergeant Jason Frost said he knew how challenging life could be after the military.
He said half the battle was mental health.
“I was discharged because I’d injured my back,” Mr Frost said.
“Dealing with my injury and loss of employment was quite challenging.”
He said he was fortunate to have the support he needed at the time, but there were many not so lucky.
“Even leaving the house can be a struggle,” Mr Frost said.
“We’ve all had a lot of mates in strife and a lot of mates close to doing bad things … a lot of us have had similar experiences.”
His words follows an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report this year, revealing the suicide rate among former members of the Australian Defence Force was higher than that of the general population.
It’s the reason Mr Frost, alongside fellow veterans Richard Salcole and Brad Fewson, took matters into their own hands last year, creating a program that was geared towards reintegration into civilian life.
Mr Frost said:
“We started as a group of veterans who realised a lot of guys in the group needed a bit of direction”.
The state-government funded welding training package gives attendees hands-on experience as they build their own pizza oven or pot belly stove.
Mr Frost said the course helped to build confidence, break down barriers and create social connections.
“It’s given them the confidence they didn’t have before,” Mr Frost said.
“They’re getting their hands on tools and being able to produce something at the end of the day.”
Some trainees have since gone on to complete further studies and find employment, according to the former sergeant.