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MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. - Two new programs at Fleet Readiness Center East are adding to the opportunities available for potential employees who want to gain work experience at the aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul facility while earning pay and benefits.
FRCE has expanded its Pathways Internship Program to offer a fast track toward employment as a journey-level mechanic to students pursuing technical degrees at local community colleges. The depot also recently signed on to participate in the Department of Defense (DoD) SkillBridge program, which is designed to give separating service members an opportunity to try out civilian sector jobs before leaving the military. These two programs are in addition to the Pathways and other internships that have been used successfully at FRCE to provide a foot in the door to students enrolled in accredited engineering and architecture programs.
Training specialists at FRCE said these internship programs provide the depot access to trained, committed employees, while giving applicants an opportunity to use their skills and education to begin a challenging, well-paying career in a technical field.
“These programs give us an ability to look at our future workforce, and give potential employees the experience of seeing what FRCE is all about,” said Vincent Burgess, FRCE Training Branch head. “If those two things mesh, then we’re creating a network to continue growing and supplementing the workforce that we have here.”
PATHWAYS INTERNSHIP PROGRAM OPENS TO TECHNICAL STUDENTS
FRCE is broadening the focus of the highly successful Pathways Internship Program to include students who are studying technical trades. FRCE hopes to build on its success in using the Pathways program to recruit engineering students, and Burgess said FRCE can offer many opportunities to students studying technical trades as well.
“There’s a world of opportunity here. We’re just looking for those who are talented and driven to bring those talents to FRCE,” Burgess said. “If they’ve invested in their future, going to a trade school in the area, we’d like them to bring that talent and continue to grow it here.”
Students pursuing technical degrees at any area community college are eligible to apply for the Pathways Internship Program. Once students are accepted to the program, they will work in an FRCE production shop on a schedule that accommodates their classroom requirements. Potential jobs include sheet metal mechanics, aircraft mechanics, pneudraulic systems mechanics, aircraft mechanical parts repairers and machinists.
Tanner Reynolds is one of two Craven Community College (CCC) students currently enrolled in FRCE’s industrial Pathways program. Reynolds works in FRCE’s gearbox shop during the day and attends aviation technology classes on CCC’s Havelock campus in the evening. He said the combination of hands-on experience and technical classes that Pathways offers makes him a better student and a better employee.
“During the day, I get a lot of hands-on experience, and my coworkers are great about answering any questions that I have,” Reynolds said. “At night, I can learn new skills and gain advice that I can apply to my work at FRCE.”
Once Pathways students complete their technical degrees, they may choose to begin the two-year apprenticeship phase of the program. Apprentices will receive additional classroom and on-the-job training as they advance from trainee to journey-level mechanic. Training coordinators said recruiting from local technical programs helps ensure trainees are well-prepared and committed to succeeding in the program.
“We are bringing in people who are already committed to excelling in their future, and they are putting their time and money toward something they value,” said Joe Charboneau, apprenticeship coordinator at FRCE. "We are confident that their training and dedication will pay off in successful careers with FRCE.
“Apprentices receive pay increases every six months as they progress through their training,” Charboneau said. “When they complete their term of apprenticeship, they will have progressed from trainee to journey-level in four years or less.”
In February, FRCE will begin recruiting to fill 20 industrial Pathways positions. Recruiters have met with students and faculty at several local community colleges to promote interest in the program.
Reynolds said his fellow aviation technology students are eager for the opportunity to earn a paycheck while they pursue their degrees.
“When class starts off and I introduce myself and what I do, people are always interested to find out I’m working at FRCE,” Reynolds said. “They’re looking for ways to get a foot in the door, and Pathways is a good place to start.”
Applications for the Pathways trade internships can be submitted at www.usajobs.gov. For more information about Pathways industrial opportunities at FRCE, contact the FRCE Training Branch at 252-464-9992.
DOD SKILLBRIDGE PROVIDES OPPORTUNITIES TO SEPARATING MILITARY
FRCE has also recently signed on as a civilian employer as part of the DoD SkillBridge program. SkillBridge offers military members separating from service the opportunity to spend their last 180 days of service working at a participating civilian employer. Service members continue to receive their military compensation and benefits, and employers provide work experience and training.
SkillBridge allows participating service members to gain civilian work experience before transitioning from military to civilian employment. Meanwhile, employers benefit by having the opportunity to evaluate the service member’s potential as a future employee.
According to FRCE SkillBridge Coordinator Chris Clower, the program links separating service members with employers whose needs match their skills.
“A service member will be learning and getting some hands-on training experience in maintaining aircraft that we service here at FRCE,” said Clower. “We will potentially gain an individual who has maturity and real-world experience, as well as some background working on aircraft that we service.”
Five separating service members will comprise FRCE’s first SkillBridge class beginning in March, with plans for a larger class of 20 to begin this summer. Clower said he expects participating service members will find FRCE a comfortable place to transition to civilian employment.
“Service members will work with us on a temporary basis, and we will teach them a skill set while we get to know them as individuals,” Clower said. “There’s no obligation on either side to extend or accept a job offer, but there’s also a potential to find strong candidates for employment.”
To learn more about the DoD SkillBridge program, visit https://skillbridge.osd.mil/. For more information about SkillBridge opportunities at FRCE, contact the FRCE Training Branch at 252-464-5865.
INTERNSHIPS A PROVEN SOURCE OF ENGINEERING TALENT
The engineering teams at FRCE use a number of internship programs to attract and retain talented applicants for engineering positions. These programs include the Pathways Internship Program; the Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program (SEAP); and the DoD Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship.
These internship programs allow high school and college students a unique opportunity to learn about possible employment with FRCE while earning a paycheck, according to Sydney Basden, FST Intern Program manager at FRCE.
“FRCE is an amazing place in that there is a lot of really interesting work happening here, and we are the future of naval aviation. But if you don’t know we exist, it’s hard to know what we do,” said Basden. “Internships are a great recruiting tool because they allow students to come in at an early age, learn what we do and become passionate about it, so they want to work here after graduation.”
The Pathways Internship Program is FRCE’s main source of engineering interns. Interns work as FRCE employees during the summer and are paid as federal employees, based on the number of college credits they have completed. Interns are eligible for benefits like paid time off, insurance and retirement. Successful interns are eligible to return for successive summer terms and can progress into full-time employment after graduation. Applications for Pathways internships were open during the second week of January through the USAJobs website, with about 50 available positions.
SEAP is run by the Office of Naval Research to bring local high school students on board as contractors during the summer. Students are assigned to a specific FST or MRO Engineering team and are given a project to work on as they earn a stipend and gain exposure to engineering career opportunities at FRCE from an early age. SEAP applications are accepted online from Aug. 1 to Nov. 1. More information can be found at https://navalsteminterns.us/seap/.
The SMART Scholarship is awarded to exceptional college engineering students who are interested in an engineering career with DoD. SMART Scholars are awarded an internship with a DoD facility, a monthly stipend, and a full-ride college scholarship for up to five years of education. Recipients pay back their scholarship with years of service on a one-to-one basis. Applications are accepted annually from Aug. 1 to Dec. 1 through the SMART Scholarship Program. Information is available at https://www.smartscholarship.org/smart.
Information on all engineering recruiting programs may be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
FRCE is North Carolina’s largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,000 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $1 billion. The depot provides service to the fleet while functioning as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander Fleet Readiness Centers.
John Olmstead, Fleet Readiness Center East Public Affairs Officer
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