By Jeffrey C. Doepp, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Mid-Atlantic Public Affairs
NORFOLK (NNS) -- Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Mid-Atlantic, Public Works Business Line (PWBL) conducted a graduation ceremony Jan. 16, for seven 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 130 apprentices from the U.S. Department of Labor accredited program designed to develop its workforce of public works tradesmen and women.
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 Thomas Harrington, PWBL training coordinator and Apprenticeship Program administrator. “They are also required to work full time to achieve 8,000 hours of OJT and complete it all in four years.”
Apprentices are trained in one of nine of the following trades: heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) mechanic; electrician; high voltage electrician; plumber; pipefitter; boiler plant mechanic; industrial equipment control mechanic; heavy mobile equipment mechanic; and auto mechanic.
“Skilled workers in these fields are crucial to the command mission,” said NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic PWBL Supervisory Production Manager Tiffany Doxsee. “Upon completion, the program is designed to produce highly skilled tradespeople. We consider this program as an investment in our future.”
One of those investments is Public Works Department Norfolk HVAC Mechanic Stacie Jones-Ponds, a Smithfield, Virginia native who holds an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science with a major in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration.
“The program is not easy, it takes hard work and determination,” she said. “It was long and often frustrating days but it’s absolutely worth it in the long run. I never would have thought I could have the type of career or knowledge I have now but I do, thanks to NAVFAC, the apprenticeship program, and my wonderful mentor.”
PWBL Maintenance Supervisor Michael Underhill was Jones-Ponds mentor for nearly two years and was selected due to his expertise in the field and his leadership skills.
“As a mentor it was my job to assist Ms. Ponds in applying the knowledge she learned in school to her work, in a safe and productive manner,” he said. “I hope all future apprentices are as successful as Ms. Ponds. I look forward to utilizing her skills to further the mission of NAVFAC as a member of my crew.”
Along with Jones-Ponds, six other apprentices graduated and have successfully moved on to become journeymen. They are: Electrician Mark Owens, PWD Norfolk; High Voltage Electrician Dustin Long, PWD Norfolk; HVAC Mechanic Alexander Vasiloff, PWD Portsmouth; Heavy Mobile Equipment Mechanic Clarence DeBerry, PWD Norfolk; Heavy Mobile Equipment Mechanic Clair Swegan, PWD Yorktown; and Automotive Mechanic Douglas Fletcher, PWD Norfolk.
“Keep pushing forward. Listen to all advice, even if you don’t understand it now, you may later on in your career,” Jones-Ponds advises current and future apprentices. “It may seem like a long program but the time passes by quickly. It can be done, I’m a single mother of four and I did it!”
Harrington said that the program not only provides jobs for the apprentices but helps them build careers, advancing to higher level positions within five years of completing the program. The program currently has 44 apprentices enrolled and anticipates recruiting approximately 45 more in fiscal year 2019 for a Fall start.
NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic is the Systems Command that delivers and maintains quality, sustainable facilities, acquires and manages capabilities for the Navy's expeditionary combat forces, provides contingency engineering response, and enables energy security and environmental stewardship across an area of responsibility that spans from Georgia to Maine and as far west as Illinois. As an integral member of the Commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic team, NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic provides leadership through the Regional Engineer organization to ensure the region's facilities and infrastructure are managed efficiently and effectively.