By Jeffrey C. Doepp, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Mid-Atlantic Public Affairs
NORFOLK (NNS) -- Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Mid-Atlantic conducted a graduation ceremony Nov. 15 for four students who successfully completed four years of training in the command's apprenticeship program.
Since the program's inception in 2006, NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic has graduated more than 100 apprentices from the U.S. Department of Labor accredited program designed to develop its workforce of public works tradesmen and women.
"The apprenticeship program is an excellent opportunity for job recruits to train and qualify for a spot on the Midlant team," said NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic Executive Officer Capt. Donald Brus, who had the honor of congratulating and presenting the graduates with their certificates. "Its continued success is key to our ability and the NAVFAC mission to support the war fighter."
The apprentice program includes on-the-job training (OJT), related classroom instruction, and apprentice mentoring.
"Apprentices go to school during their off-duty hours and achieve an associate degree or certificate in their assigned trade," said Craig Mayer, public works business line coordinator for NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic, who oversees the program. "At the same time, they work full time to achieve 8,000 hours of OJT and complete these requirements in four years."
Apprentices are trained in one of nine of the following trades: heating, ventilation, and air conditioning mechanic; electrician; high voltage electrician; plumber; pipefitter; boiler plant mechanic; industrial equipment control mechanic; heavy mobile equipment mechanic; and auto mechanic.
"Upon completion, the program is designed to produce highly skilled tradespeople. Skilled workers in these fields are crucial to the command mission," said NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic Personnel and Resources Supervisor Tiffany Doxsee. "Many of the command's expert tradespersons are rapidly approaching retirement; we consider this program as an investment in our future.
One of those investments is Public Works Department Portsmouth Electrician Victoria Latham, a Norfolk, Virginia native who became aware of the apprenticeship program while attending The Building Trades Academy of the Tidewater Builders Association. Latham graduated the NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic Apprenticeship program with honors.
"This was such a vigorous and rewarding program for me and I feel relieved, proud, distinguished, and accomplished now that I have graduated," she said. "My peers have watched me grow from an apprentice to a journeymen level electrician and that respect is priceless."
Along with Latham, three other apprentices graduated and have successfully moved on to become journeymen. They are: Shamina Edwards, a high voltage electrician at PWD Portsmouth; Shane Birch, a heavy mobile equipment mechanic with Public Works Core Norfolk, Crane Shop; and Lamont Pugh, a heavy mobile equipment mechanic at PWD Portsmouth.
"What makes this program and these apprentices, now journeymen so successful is the hard work on the part of the program mentors," Mayer said. "Aside from the OJT skills and knowledge they provide, they guide and advise them and put a lot of time and effort into their future."
Doxsee said that the program is central to the command's plans for training and retaining world-class professionals. The program has 44 apprentices currently enrolled and anticipates recruiting 30 more, as well as expanding the program to PWD Crane and Great Lakes for fiscal year 2018.
Because of her success, Latham was asked to offer up some advice for the current and future apprentices.
"Do not be afraid to ask a million questions. Take notes and be attentive. Stay on top of your studies and learn how to manage your time and prioritize. Don't ever get discouraged because you will have plenty of help," she said. "Although it may initially seem like a daunting task, the NAVFAC apprenticeship program is truly rewarding and an achievement with benefits that will last a lifetime."