FRC East apprentices honored during graduation ceremony

Sheet metal technician John Williams, right, receives his certificate in industrial systems technology from Craven Community College President Raymond Staats during a graduation ceremony held at the New Bern campus May 20. Mr. Williams and 38 other Fleet Readiness Center East apprentices received their certificates during the event. (Heather Wilburn, Fleet Readiness Center East Public Affairs photo)

By Heather Wilburn, Fleet Readiness Center East

CHERRY POINT — Two groups of Fleet Readiness Center East apprentices celebrated success during a graduation ceremony held May 20 at the Craven Community College-New Bern campus.

The apprentices earned certificates in industrial systems technology, recognizing their completion of the academic portion of the National Apprenticeship Program. The four-year program, governed by commander of the fleet readiness centers, offers participants the opportunity to work as full-time federal employees as candidates pursue a combination of education and on-the-job training.

The apprentices are now completely part of the FRC East family, Executive Director Mark Meno said in remarks given during the ceremony.

“A family is a foundation – a bedrock,” he said. “Consider the families and those who have supported you on this journey to today. Don’t forget to thank them, even if it is thanking them yet again.” 

Mr. Meno challenged the apprentices to consider the three P’s as they continue down their career path at FRC East: principled, passion and professionalism.

“This will hopefully enable your success, ensure that you put this hands-on and scholastic training that has been afforded you to purposeful use, and excite you about what lies ahead,” he said. “As you go forth from today, may you always be principled, remain passionate and strive to always reflect professionalism.”

A total of 49 apprentices received their certificates of completion from Craven Community College President Raymond Staats. For the 31 apprentices in Cohort 1 – also known as the class of 2023 – the ceremony has been a long time coming. This group began the program in August 2019 and completed the coursework in May 2020; however, the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic scuttled that year’s plans for a graduation ceremony.

For the 18 apprentices in Cohort 2, their work as the class of 2024 began in August 2020.

The apprentices have put in effort to get to this point but still have more work to do, said Vincent Burgess, training branch head at FRC East’s Command Operations Department. With the coursework behind them, the apprentices now must complete additional on-the-job training and further certifications at FRC East before they reach their full, journey-level mechanic status.  

“We are immensely proud of all that the apprentice cohorts, through perseverance and dedication, have achieved,” Mr. Burgess said. “We look forward to seeing all they achieve in the future with the knowledge and spirit they bring to FRC East. Witnessing the graduation today, I firmly believe the future of FRC East is very bright.”

The apprentices work in five career fields and range in age from 20 to 58. Many, like sheet metal technician John Williams, are veterans who see a career at FRC East as a way to remain connected to the military.

“I was interested in working for the military. I’m prior service Air Force, so aviation is my ‘kung fu,’ if you would,” Mr. Williams said. “FRC East is one of the premier aviation employers in the area, so it was a good fit.”

As part of the program, apprentices learn and work in FRC East’s Production Department, training in machinist, pneudraulics, sheet metal, aircraft and mechanical parts repair and airframes. The program seeks to produce a steady pipeline of qualified mechanics ready to provide service to the fleet. 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 North Carolina and the U.S. Department of Labor.

All told, they will gain 7,200 hours of academic, trade and on-the-job training over the course of their apprenticeships. In return, they agree to provide the depot with two years of skilled labor.

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