One year ago, Jesus De La Pena looked around at the tradespeople working for the Naval Engineering Facilities Command (NAVFAC) in San Diego and realized the seasoned work force of mostly baby boomers would soon start retiring.
De La Pena was asked to find and implement a training program that would provide well-trained replacement employees. He knew the best way was to train apprentices and have them work and learn from the seasoned journeymen. He ultimately received U.S. Department of Labor approval for a NAVFAC federally registered apprenticeship program. In his role as a Miramar College professor teaching diesel technology, De La Pena was familiar with the training provided by the ABC San Diego Apprenticeship Training Trust. He reached out to Executive Director Sherry Yarbrough to find out whether NAVFAC and ABC might be able to work together in delivery of the classroom training component.
A year later, 31 apprentices are two months into their four-year training program, provided through a unique partnership between NAVFAC and ABC, which is providing the classroom training. De La Pena is the apprentice program administrator and reports the program is going very well. “Everything’s been positive. The apprentices are really happy to be here, and the journeymen are happy to have them.”
“It’s a win-win. There is a return on investment. The command is getting quality trained craftspeople at the end of the program. Working with ABC, we contributed to getting 31 people a job that will also give them a skill set, which will serve them a lifetime,” said De La Pena.
De La Pena is especially pleased that the majority of the students are from the San Diego area, getting a chance at good job opportunities. The students are all civilians, and the training program is open to all. NAVFAC has apprentices at ABC who are studying plumbing, pipefitting, HVAC/sheet metal and electrical. De La Pena hopes to add training opportunities in utility system operations, rigging and water treatment plant operations soon.
De La Pena is now working with ABC chapters elsewhere in California, including Ventura and Fresno, to establish similar programs. “I’m very ambitious,” he admitted. “The more positions I can create, the more there is something to strive for.”