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The Department of Defense seeks apprentices who want to get paid to work and go to school.

First, please give me a brief overview of the program.

We are a four-year Federal program based upon a highly successful Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility model, that has been in existence since 1901. We teach trade skills related to ship repair and maintenance combined with college courses that teach teamwork, communications, critical thinking, problem solving, and leadership.

What are the specifics of the schooling portion of the program?

Classes include trade theory and mechanical drafting/blueprint reading, which are taught by qualified instructors from each trade. College academics including math, written and verbal communications, leadership, computer aided drafting & design, and critical thinking provided by Southwestern College.

All courses are taught at our facility on Naval Air Station, North Island. All apprentices take the same classes as they go through the program. We cover college tuition and fees. Apprentices attend school full-time two weeks out of each month during the fall and spring semesters over the first three years of the program. Apprentices are paid while they attend school. On a typical day, classes start at 6 am and end at 2:30 pm

And how about the work portion?

During the fall and spring semesters, apprentices are accomplishing on the job learning during the two weeks per month that they are not in school and also between semesters. During this time, apprentices work full-time in their respective trades at the activity that hired them, which include Southwest Regional Maintenance Center at 32nd Street, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard detachment at NAS North Island, Fleet Readiness Center Southwest at NAS North Island, or Portsmouth Naval Shipyard detachment at Point Loma. The trades include Marine Pipefitters, Marine Machinery Mechanics, Machinists, Marine Electricians, Shipfitters, and Sheetmetal Workers.

After the apprenticeship, what happens?

Apprentices receive a Certificate in Leadership & Supervision from the college at the end of year three. The fourth year is spent entirely in the shop mastering the trade. At the end of the fourth year, apprentices receive certificates from the Departments of Labor and Navy certifying them as a journey-level mechanic in their assigned trade and graduate from the apprentice program.

So, what are you looking for in your apprentices? Are they new to the workforce or people who are looking to change careers?

We have a little bit of both. We want people who are highly motivated, with a strong work ethic and high personal standards, who are able to succeed in a challenging environment, work with a team, communicate well, and are open to learning.

What kind of skill sets do they need to come in with?

We teach the skills needed to get to the journey level, so no experience is required. We do like to see some kind of aptitude or interest in the trade that the person is applying for and a genuine desire to learn and work within a trade. To be successful with the intense academic schedule, applicants must be able to place into our starting math and English courses as well as meet the college reading requirement prior to entering the program.

What would you say are the best perks of the program?

This is a great career opportunity. Graduates of apprentice programs like ours have gone on to become senior leaders in their organizations, with rich and rewarding careers behind them. I have no doubt that many graduates of our program (we graduate our first group next year) will do the same.

And the challenges?

This is a very intense and challenging program. It requires continuous effort over the entire 4 years.

When are you hiring, and what is the process?

This year, we will be accepting applications for approximately one week starting in late September. Applications are taken through usajobs.gov. Applicants need to create an account, create or upload a résumé if they have not already, and apply through the announcement while it is open. We require all applicants to be at least 18 years old, US Citizens, and able to obtain and maintain a security clearance to be eligible for employment. Ideal candidates will be able to meet placement requirements for math and English at Southwestern College, as otherwise they cannot be enrolled in the required apprentice classes.

Do you have any advice to offer those interested in applying?

Make sure you can meet the placements for math and English. Also, spend some time on your résumé. It’s your first, and possibly only, chance to present yourself to the people that will decide who to hire.

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