Other students are approaching middle age and looking for a chance to start fresh. Marcus Cook, 47, has held his share of jobs in telecommunications and the service industry; in darker days, he served time in prison for robbery.
But, that's all behind him, he says. Now, he's engaged and has monthly bills, child support and a daughter looking to go to college. He sees the course as a ticket to getting his life back on track in an industry that appears to be growing. Plus, after more than a decade working on his feet in kitchens, it satisfies his desire to be creative in a job that won't require him to stand all day.
"I'm still 20 years from retirement so I took this as an opportunity to learn a trade that will give me another notch in my belt and keep me employed," he said. "I don't see this industry becoming totally automated and robotic; there will always be a human application to it."
Scott Loeser also enjoys making things with his hands, which is why he got into leather-making in the first place. And, if growing consumer interest in the "made in USA" trend translates to a real revival of American manufacturing jobs, he wants to be at the forefront.
Running his own successful leather goods business is the ultimate goal -- he already has a name for it, Marked. But, in the short term, he simply wants to learn a marketable trade that interests him.
"The desire for made in USA is out there, the problem is there's no one to make it, which is a need this program is filling," he said. "I want to be part of a movement that makes factory work cool and sexy again."