FRCE Welcomes First Class of National Apprenticeship Program

FRCE Welcomes First Class of National Apprenticeship Program

August 13, 2019

 
Fleet Readiness Center East’s Apprentice Class of 2023 pose for a group photo in front of an AV-8 Harrier trainer on the depot’s grounds. The class marks the kickoff of FRCE’s participation in the National Apprentice Program, which will allow Fleet Readiness Centers across the Navy to recruit, train and retain skilled artisans to maintain the command’s future workforce.

By Heather Wilburn, Fleet Readiness Center Public Affairs

MCAS CHERRY POINT, NC — With an eye on recruiting and retaining aircraft maintenance professionals, Fleet Readiness Center East welcomed its first round of participants in the National Apprenticeship Program Monday, August 12.

More than 380 applicants competed for the program’s 40 available slots, which offer participants the opportunity to work as full-time federal employees, receiving pay and benefits, as they pursue a combination of education and on-the-job training. Apprentices will learn and work in FRCE’s Production Department, training in trades including machinist, pneudraulics, sheet metal, aircraft and mechanical parts repair, and airframes.

“Launching our local participation in the National Apprenticeship Program is exciting, because it allows us to strategically plan for the future of the depot’s workforce,” said FRCE Commanding Officer Capt. Mark E. Nieto. “Through the program, the depot will gain a workforce of highly skilled artisans who have received the most cutting-edge training.

“This initiative also benefits our local community by providing entry-level access to a quality, long-term career,” Nieto continued. “It’s another way FRCE is invested in developing opportunities for the local community while supporting our warfighter.”

“This is our first class of apprentices within the new program, and we are thrilled to begin,” added John Whitehurst, head of the Industrial Execution Department at FRCE. “This is the only program in the Production Department that takes an employee from the local economy, without aviation maintenance experience, and provides them with a planned pathway to becoming a journeyman mechanic. It’s a tremendous opportunity for both the candidates and for FRCE.”

The four-year National Apprenticeship Program – governed at the national level by Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers and administered at the local level by each FRC – seeks to produce a steady pipeline of qualified mechanics ready to generate combat airpower for the warfighter. At the end of the four years, apprentices who successfully complete the program will have earned an academic certificate, trade theory certificate, and certification recognized by both the State of North Carolina and the U.S. Department of Labor. In return, they agree to provide the depot with two years of skilled labor, the beginning of what will hopefully be a long career with FRCE.

In addition to maintaining the workforce, the program help the depot evolve as the apprentices bring in the newest production methods and processes, said David Rose, director of FRCE’s Production Trades Division.

“The apprenticeship program allows us to grow and develop individuals with the most current practices so they will have the knowledge, skills and abilities to advance the depot-level maintenance of our aircraft platforms into the future,” Rose explained.

“It’s a true investment in the future of our production efforts,” Whitehurst added.

Pay starts at $17 per hour, with incremental raises every six months for successful apprentices. Monthly performance ratings provide participants with feedback on job performance. This class of apprentices will take two semesters of academic courses at Craven Community College, along with workforce development classes, then start their training under skilled artisans. All told, they will gain 7,200 hours of academic, trade and on-the-job training over the course of their apprenticeships.

“They’re getting paid to learn a trade,” said Angie Cloyd, director of the Career Development Division in FRCE’s Total Force Strategy and Management Department. “We’ve made a very good program – and a very appealing program – to attract the best candidates. It’s a real motivator for most people.

“North Carolina is a very military-friendly state, so we’re very patriotic,” she continued. “I think that’s another motivation here that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the area. When people work at FRCE, they’re purpose-driven, and they know that what they are doing truly makes a difference. That’s a real attraction for a lot of people.”

While apprenticeships are not new to the fleet readiness world, the National Apprentice Program takes a new look at standardizing the program across COMFRC. The Class of 2023 is the largest single group of apprentices the depot has seen since 2012, Cloyd said, and it’s coming in right on time.

“We know we have an aging workforce, we know we have a lot of positions that will need to be filled, and we want to make sure we’re prepared for that with succession planning,” she explained.

COMFRC has estimated its component depots experience an annual attrition rate of about 7 to 10 percent. Having new apprentices come into the program and work their way to journey-level tradesmen is a strategic, long-range planning effort by the command to prevent a future decline in the labor force. The apprenticeship program also helps preserve the institutional knowledge seasoned artisans have learned through years of on-the-job experience, Cloyd added.

“We need that knowledge to stay productive and to put out good, quality products and work. It’s so hard to replace that experience,” she said. “All these people have different strengths they bring on board, and sharing that with the younger generation is critical. We don’t want to lose that. Our goal is to make sure we capture that knowledge from the veteran workforce and share it, so the next generation is ready to keep the fleet in the air.”

In order to take advantage of this opportunity, applicants must be U.S. citizens; determined suitable for federal employment; able to successfully pass a background check; able to meet the physical requirements of the job and pass a drug test; and possess the requirements for admission into the program’s educational partner. Applicants who are selected have the chance to develop into a career field with enormous growth potential.

“There are a lot of people who began their career with an apprenticeship program and have progressed and have grown tremendously into leadership positions,” Cloyd said. “You can be a supervisor, you can be an integrated product team lead – there are lots of opportunities.”

Jeff Nelson, head of FRCE’s Corporate Operations Group, agreed the apprenticeship program offers room to grow. He started working at the depot as a tool and parts attendant in 1987, and took advantage of several formalized training programs – similar to the National Apprenticeship Program – as he progressed through the ranks. Now able to serve as a mentor to others, he stressed that individual effort is fundamental to successful training and advancement.

“Participants in programs like these not only gain mechanical skills that are needed to produce aircraft, engines and components, but also acquire a broad perspective of how our mission supports the fleet,” Nelson explained. “This is a tremendous opportunity for the apprentices. You only get out of these program what you put into it. The application of the knowledge, skills and abilities learned through the program, combined with personal commitment to our mission, are the keys to success.”

FRCE is North Carolina’s largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,200 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $720 million. The depot generates combat air power for America’s Marines and Naval forces while serving as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.

(source: www.dividshub.net)