Deputy Executive Director Jonathan Yackley says the job shop has aggressive plans for growth in 2023 – both in terms of its reentry program and the number of customers utilizing its machining services.

Rise Up Industries was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2013 by a group of professionals who were volunteering with Kairos Prison Ministry at RJ Donovan Correctional Facility in southern San Diego County. Noticing that many of the incarcerated individuals were reading the book Tattoos on the Heart by Greg Boyle, the organization’s co-founders invited the author to speak at the prison.

“Father Greg Boyle is the founder of Homeboy Industries up in Los Angeles,” Yackley says. “It’s the most recognized gang intervention and reentry program in the world. Everyone was pretty inspired and encouraged by his talk.”

Photos Jonathan Castner

Boyle encouraged the group to start their own reentry program. “The original vision — similar to Homeboy Industries — was to try to get permanent employment for individuals wo were having some difficulty navigating reentry,” Yackley says. “We did a lot of research among those who were working with related populations and found that there was nothing that was really long-term or comprehensive here in San Diego.”

While Homeboy Industries trains the formerly incarcerated to become screen printers and coffee roasters, Rise Up Industries’ co-founders zeroed in on CNC machining, launching the company’s 18-month reentry program in March 2016.

“We started in a 500-square-foot garage with one CNC machine that Gene Haas from Haas Automation entrusted to us,” Yackley continues. “In 2016, we expanded to a 4,000-square-foot facility with six CNC machines, mills, and lathes, along with a number of pieces of manual equipment. And we’re now ready to expand again into about a 20,000-square-foot space.”

Rise Up Industries’ reentry program has been capped at 12 full-time members at a time. “We’re enrolling and graduating people each quarter,” Yackley says. “We stay with somewhat limited numbers because we’re paying them full-time wages. And we don’t want to have so many members that the training suffers.”

About three quarters of the program members’ time is spent in the machine shop. “They’re getting real world experience through on-the-job training on real contract work,” Yackley explains. “Then the rest of their time is split between doing classroom learning on the theory of machining as well as our wraparound services, which include things like counseling, case management, therapy for PTSD, tattoo removal, work ethic development, mentorship, financial literacy — basically all of the things that are needed to successfully navigate society and help prevent someone from returning to incarceration.”

Rise Up Industries has more than 60 customers from across the U.S., and most are doing repeat business with the company. “You get defense, aerospace, commercial, oil and gas, medical devices. A lot of companies use CNC job shops like ours,” Yackley adds. “One of our three largest customers makes the top videography carts in the film industry. It has like 500 components to it, and we make several of the components on that cart. Another one of our major customers does aftermarket auto parts. We make some of their gears that soup up various cars.”

While the job shop experienced a decline in work during 2020, the slowdown enabled the team to focus on reverse engineering parts for new clients. “We spent a lot of 2020 developing a couple of large customers,” Yackley says. As a result, Rise Up Industries enjoyed its best year yet in 2021. “Our work just ballooned,” Yackley continues. “We did nearly half a million in gross revenue that year. For a small CNC job shop, that’s great. All of our machines were working at capacity for all of 2021 and going into the first half of 2022.”

He notes that the organization has aggressive growth plans for 2023 as they add as many as 14 CNC machines with pallet changing capabilities in their new space. “With that, we do hope to and plan to increase our customer base,” he says.

The move will also enable the expansion of the reentry program. “The demand from manufacturers to hire our graduates is high,” Yackley says. “It just makes a lot of sense to expand our operation and add more people to double our enrollment capacity in the program and slowly start to scale.”

Challenges: Yackley says the main challenge the organization has faced has been space. “Space has been our main limiting factor,” he continues. “Another challenge is that we have more than 60 customers with three main customers making up the majority of our work — and we’re in the process of adding a fourth. I’m sure other CNC machine shops can resonate with this, but one month there will be so much work that you don’t know how you’re going to get everything done. And then the next month, you have two machines open.”

Opportunities: “There’s such a need for skilled workers,” Yackley says. “And at the same time, you have so many people leaving incarceration. The recidivism rate — which means people who get arrested after they are released from prison — is so high across the nation. Within three years of release, 66 percent get arrested. And [according to] Bureau of Justice statistics, recidivism rates go up to 80 percent when you track that out to nine or 10 years. So, people are getting out of prison, struggling to reenter, and just going right back again.”

He notes that California pays $106,000 per year per incarcerated individual. “The cost to taxpayers is astronomical,” Yackley continues. “And a lot of that is simply because there are not good career options. That’s why our recidivism rate [among our members] is only 6 percent. And if we could train a good portion of that population for a career and help address the manufacturing skills gap at the same time, that’s an opportunity for our larger mission.”

Needs: Yackley would like to add a couple of additional customers to the company’s roster of clients that can place consistent orders. “If there are companies out there that have manufacturing needs, especially with simple parts, and that are somewhat consistent, that’s a major need of ours,” he says.

Additionally, he adds, “We always invite manufacturers to let us know if they want to hire our graduates. Even though we have a list of manufacturers already, any manufacturer that reaches out and wants to hire from us, we’ll put them on a spreadsheet that we share with the members of our program. We don’t charge staffing fees or anything like that. We just want the best for the employees that are coming out of our program.”