JACKSONVILLE, Fla. –
A crowd of family, friends and loved ones gathered at Southbank Hotel Jacksonville Riverwalk to celebrate the achievements of Fleet Readiness Center Southeast's (FRCSE) 2023 Trades Apprenticeship Program graduates on Friday, Aug. 4.
The program, a paid four-year combination work/study apprenticeship, encompasses seven fields of study, including aircraft electrician, electronics mechanic, machinist, sheet metal mechanic, painter, aircraft mechanic and pneudraulics mechanic. FRCSE not only provides each student's tuition and fees, but pays a competitive hourly wage and provides benefits throughout the program.
The 76 graduating apprentices reflect each discipline of study, with the standard course length being approximately four years. Aircraft painting, an equally complex and meticulous field of study, requires a three-year commitment.
While the command did host a small ceremony recognizing five advancing painters last year, this is the first large-scale graduation the organization has seen in more than 20 years. Approximately 70 graduates and their families, nearly 500 people total, were in attendance.
"It's no secret that a lot of hard work goes into completing a four-year program of this caliber - thousands of hours of rigorous academics, trade theory and on-the-job training in highly-technical areas like metal-working, mechanical and electrical repair, pneumatic and hydraulic repair, and application of coatings and finishes," said Commanding Officer Capt. William Palmer. "Whether you personally have served in uniform or not, I proudly call all of you Shipmates today because you are a national asset supporting our nation and its freedoms. These 76 apprentices are the future leaders of FRC Southeast."
Upon completion, graduates earn a college credit certificate as an Engineering Technology Support Specialist and are offered a full-time permanent position at the depot. They may also request a different FRC or government agency if job openings fit their experience.
Capt. Palmer served as presiding officer at the event, and various guest speakers, including FRCSE Production Support Branch Head Mary Ann Ball, FRCSE MRO Production Director Veronica Amato and graduating apprentice Kameron Murphy enriched the ceremony with anecdotes, experiences and inspiration.
"I, too, sat in a graduation class of apprentices some 37 years ago,” said Mary Ann Ball. "My career with the government started just three days after high school graduation at the Washington Navy Yard as a GS-02 admin. I remember thinking, 'This is a great summer job. I wouldn't have guessed it would lead me down an interesting and fulfilling career spanning more than 50 years."
FRCSE, in partnership with St. Johns River State College, launched the renewed apprenticeship program in 2019 – gearing it toward individuals with no experience who want to start a career in a skilled trade.
While the program is ideal for any person hoping to achieve a lucrative and respected career in the federal workforce, it's also vital to the health of FRCSE. By cultivating an environment that promotes peer learning throughout the organization, FRCSE continues to safeguard the flow of knowledge from generation to generation.
"We've heard it time and time again – our command repairs products that the Warfighter depends on every day," said Kameron Murphy, FRCSE graduating apprentice. "Thanks to the dedicated instructors, supervisors, and leadership – rest assured -- we won't forget the weight of that responsibility."
The following week the graduates returned to work, not as students of their trade, but as full-fledged journey-level artisans.
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 approximately 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.