Fleet Readiness Center Southeast celebrates apprentice graduates

By Ashley Lombardo
Fleet Readiness Center Southeast Public Affairs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A small group of family, friends and loved ones gathered on Aug. 4 in Naval Air Station Jacksonville’s ceremonial hangar to celebrate the achievements of Fleet Readiness Center Southeast’s (FRCSE) Trades Apprenticeship Program graduates for the first time in decades.

All five graduating apprentices have completed the painter discipline and were accepted into the program in 2019. Painting, one of seven Trades Apprenticeship concentrations, requires a three-year commitment from apprentices.

“We are excited to welcome the first graduating class of apprentices in many, many years and the next generation of painters to FRCSE,” said Commanding Officer Captain Grady Duffey. “Apprenticeship has a real foothold here at FRC Southeast. Dozens of senior leaders have risen through the ranks in this same capacity. New, fresh and innovative eyes are important to the health of the organization and to the way we do business. I can speak for the whole command when I say we are eager for these young adults to accept their certificates and take on their full-time positions supporting the Naval Aviation Enterprise and our mission in support of the warfighter.”

The ceremony featured guest speakers, including Captain Grady Duffey, FRCSE’s commanding officer, Joe Pickens, St. Johns River State College’s (SJR State) president, keynote speaker Reggie Valentine, FRCSE’s production lines director and class leader, Gilbert Baez.

In partnership with SJRSC, FRCSE launched the renewed apprenticeship program in 2019, a combination work-study program that provides apprentices with a competitive wage and benefits while learning a journey-level trade.

“Three years ago, SJR State had the privilege of welcoming the apprentices to the Orange Park Campus,” said Pickens. “As part of this inaugural group, we consider them the pioneers. They experienced the construction of the labs, new systems being launched and tested, and they provided us all with lessons learned. Not to mention, they had to persevere through a pandemic. They have helped to pave the way for future students. For the sake of this program, and the defense of our nation, we all had to adjust and keep moving forward, and we did. It truly is an honor to serve those who are serving our nation.”

Ideal for FRCSE and apprentices alike — by infusing intergenerational learning across the production floor, FRCSE continues the flow of knowledge and expertise from generation to generation.

“When you have different generations coming together, real magic happens. Students are much more interested in the courses because they can learn practical and useful skills, and managers know that their future employees will have the knowledge required to be successful,” said Valentine. “I was in a similar program called PAVE, or Professional Advancement through Vocational Education, in 1983 as a Wage Grade 01 employee earning $4.64 per hour. I graduated from the program five years later as a WG-08 jet engine repairer, certified to disassemble, repair and assemble 13 types of jet engines.”

Like many of the command’s leaders, Valentine has steadily climbed the ranks at FRC Southeast, proving that the Trades Apprenticeship Program, and other similar educational opportunities, can lead to successful and lucrative careers in both the public and private sectors. “As a kid, I attended the local air shows and dreamt about what it would be like to work on the huge planes and shiny jets,” said Baez. “Now, I do precisely that - all while serving my country and supporting the heroes that protect our nation and values, and I truly don’t think a person can get luckier.”

Come next summer, FRCSE will see its first large-scale graduation ceremony with more than 80 apprentices across the various areas of study. After completion, graduates begin full-time employment with FRCSE and will be placed among the depot’s production lines as needed. If desired, they may also request a different FRC or detachment if job openings fit their experience. About Fleet Readiness Center Southeast's Trades Apprenticeship Program The Trades Apprenticeship Program is a paid four-year combination work/study program encompassing seven different fields of study, including aircraft electrician, electronics mechanic, machinist, sheet metal mechanic, painter, aircraft mechanic and pneudraulics mechanic. While in school, tuition and fees are provided for by FRCSE. Upon successful completion of the program, each student will earn a college credit certificate as an Engineering Technology Support Specialist and be offered a full-time position within the federal workforce. Recruitment for the program begins during the fall each year.

About Fleet Readiness Center Southeast

Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE) is Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia's largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, employing approximately 5,000 civilian, military and contract workers. With annual revenue exceeding $1 billion, the organization serves as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy, Naval Air Systems Command, and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers by maintaining the combat airpower for America's military forces.

group photo of Fleet Readiness Center Southeast’s (FRCSE) Trades Apprenticeship Program graduates

Fleet Readiness Center Southeast’s (FRCSE) Trades Apprenticeship Program graduates.



Susan Kessler
Director of Public Relations and Publications
(386) 312-4020