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News | June 14, 2021

Fleet Readiness Center Southeast's first apprentices hit the production floor

By Ashley Lombardo

"This is a huge milestone for the apprentices and instructors since the first two years the students provide only indirect support to the depot, which means we haven't benefited from the program up until this point," said Mark McManus, FRCSE’s Apprentice Program Branch Head. "Now that we have apprentices on the floor, they have finally started to perform in support of the FRCSE mission."

Fleet Readiness Center Southeast Trades Apprenticeship Program
SLIDESHOW | 6 images | 210602-N-DG679-036 JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (June 2, 2021) Capt. Grady Duffey, commanding officer of Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE), observes a demonstration by aircraft mechanic instructor Kenneth “KP” Poythress on an aircraft landing gear training aid during a tour of the apprentice training spaces. (U.S. Navy photo by Toiete Jackson)

The program has seven areas of interest, spanning from aircraft electrician to painter, and each track is different. Despite an apprentice's specific area, each student spends the first nine months in the classroom, between St. Johns River State College and FRCSE, learning the basics. Instruction comes in the form of hands-on training, lecture and lab. 

Courses like writing, manufacturing and processes, mechanical measurements and more are just a few of the requirements that apprentices must meet before breaking off into trade theory, which is the second portion of the program and consists of classroom and lab work. Trade theory can last between nine and 12 months and begins each apprentice's track. 

"Instructors and leadership are excited to see our first class of apprentices hit the floor, but I don't think anyone is more eager than the students," said Angello Evans, FRCSE’s Apprentice Program Division Director. "Some of these folks got a taste of the production floor during the height of the pandemic because of personnel shortages, but now they get to delve into their area of interest." 

Of the 88 total apprentices, 51 are currently on the floor - 21 aircraft mechanics, nine electricians, 11 machinists, five painters, and five pneudraulics systems mechanics. They will spend the duration of their training rotating between production lines or corresponding shops. 

The remaining 29 sheet metal mechanic and eight electronics mechanic apprentices will begin their final phase of on-the-floor training in June and July, respectively.  

"This 4-year program is challenging even during ideal and predictable times," said FRCSE's Commanding Officer Capt. Grady Duffey. "As we all know, this year has been anything but ideal and predictable, but our apprentices have adapted to their new environment and exceeded all expectations. I look forward to seeing what they accomplish on the production floor."

The first Trades Apprenticeship Program class will graduate between June 2022 and summer 2023. After graduation, they will begin full-time employment at FRCSE. Graduates are placed among the depot's six production lines as needed and may request a different FRC or detachment if job openings fit their experience. 

"Our apprentices have been chomping at the bit for two years to actually do their job, and the vast majority are ecstatic to be working on aircraft finally," said McManus. "They are down there learning their job, and the support we've gotten from Production personnel has been fantastic. We have room to grow in terms of curriculum and lab, but we are thrilled with the progress and the program's continued success." 

About Fleet Readiness Center Southeast's Trades Apprenticeship Program 

The Trades Apprenticeship Program is a paid four-year combination work/study program encompassing seven different fields of study, including aircraft electrician, electronics mechanic, machinist, sheet metal mechanic, painter, aircraft mechanic and pneudraulics mechanic. While in school, tuition and fees are provided for by FRCSE. Upon successful completion of the program, each student will earn a college credit certificate as an Engineering Technology Support Specialist and be offered a full-time position within the federal workforce. Recruitment for the program begins during the fall each year.  

About Fleet Readiness Center Southeast

Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE) is Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia's largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, employing more than 5,000 civilian, military and contract workers. With annual revenue exceeding $1 billion, the organization serves as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy, Naval Air Systems Command, and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers by maintaining the combat airpower for America's military forces.