By Ryo Isobe, FLEACT Yokosuka Public Affairs
YOKOSUKA, Japan – Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center (SRF-JRMC) welcomed 32 new apprentices and four Engineering and Planning Development Program (EPDP) trainees during an opening ceremony at Fleet Activities Yokosuka’s Chief Petty Officer Club, April 1, 2016.
SRF-JRMC cultivates a skilled workforce in ship repair and maintenance through these two training programs that support the command’s mission in ‘keeping the 7th Fleet operationally ready.’
“I want to point out that you have been selected from a competitive pool of applicants,” said SRF-JRMC Commanding Officer Capt. Garrett Farman in his opening remarks. “Essentially, you are here today because we see great potential in each of you. Feel as proud of yourselves as I am of each of you.”
Together with the command’s U.S. military, civilian leaders and Japanese supervisors, special guest speaker and Chief of Yokosuka Defense Office Ministry of Defense Hisayuki Honda hailed the new trainees at the ceremony.
“I am sure that you will steadily attain skills through each of the classroom courses using your strong will and effort. And, I am confident that you will maintain a good relationship with your instructors and senior workers,” said Honda. “I hope you devote yourselves toward improving your skills through your daily tasks.”
Since its establishment in 1947, SRF-JRMC maintains, modernizes and repairs the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet ships. It requires a great number of technical production specialists for that purpose. In the 1980s, however, many of those production specialists began to reach the age of retirement and a generational change took place.
In 1985, the command’s apprentice program was launched to create and nurture a pool of resourceful workers for the next ship repair generation. It has helped meet the demand for experienced personnel ever since.
The four-year apprentice program teaches various trades, including electrical, calibration, pipe, weapon, shipfitter, sheetmetal, welding and machinist. This program includes on-the-job training, as well as classroom courses on English language, math, safety and environmental awareness and sustainment.
According to Farman, 745 trainees have completed the apprentice program to date and graduated to journeyman.
“Currently, almost 70 percent of production workers at the command have graduated from the apprentice program,” said Machinery Group Master Masato Suzuki, who also addressed the trainees at the ceremony. “They make up an integral part of shops around the command.”
“I was a car mechanic for about seven years,” said a new apprentice and shipfitter, Kouhei Ooi, from Shipfitter Shop. “I really like handling machines and process parts. This job promises that I will be doing something rewarding, such as contributing to a peaceful world.”
In contrast, the EPDP was established in April 2014. Similar to its apprentice counterpart, this program develops a technical workforce with specialized knowledge in ship repair. However, the trainees are expected to become fully qualified technicians in planning, evaluating and preparing technical documents in the U.S. naval ship repair industry.
Electromechanical and Pressure Equipment Standards Calibrator Noriko Sano from Calibration Shop said her two years of experience in the lighting equipment industry sparked her interest in seeking employment at the command. “After my previous job,” she said “I decided I would like to further my knowledge about calibrating devices.”
EPDP usually admits applicants with minimum college-level education in engineering principles and theory. Prior work experience is not mandatory. In fact, one of the EPDP trainees and new production control clerk, Youhei Arakawa from Planning and Estimating Division, was willing to take a chance in applying.
“I don’t have a technical background, but I previously worked at the Yokosuka Base Navy Exchange and studied English,” said Arakawa. “By fully applying skills in English, I would also like to gain knowledge about ship repair as well and pass the tests for promotion.”
Another EPDP trainee, Izumi Hayasaka, joins the command as an engineering technician specializing in naval architecture. “I studied and have long been interested in the buildings and culture of Yokosuka,” said Hayasaka. “From my experience, I am quite used to working on blueprints. I am looking forward to working with my coworkers and seniors and eventually being able to support SRF-JRMC as a full-fledged journeyperson.”
Farman said that since the command’s technical documents are written in English, developing English language skills will be a challenge during the course of students’ training. English lessons are extensively conducted by the command’s language training division. However, the students are always welcome to take more training and participate in American-Japanese language and cultural exchanges with their U.S. coworkers if they wish to study further.
At the ceremony’s conclusion, Production Department Head Lt. Cmdr. Shaun Hayes, Lifting and Handling Department Head Shawn Smitter and Deputy Planning and Engineering Officer David Allison presented the apprentices and EPDP trainees with their first hardhats to welcome them into the program.