By Ryo Isobe, FLEACT Yokosuka Public Affairs
YOKOSUKA, Japan – Approximately 20 members from Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center (SRF-JRMC) Apprentice Program Classes 31 and 32 completed a mathematics refresher course, spanning 12 lessons over three months culminating with a final exam March 30, 2016.
This math course is part of the command’s intensive four-year apprentice program which develops trainees into skilled technicians and fulfills the command’s mission of “keeping the 7th Fleet operationally ready.”
“I would like [the apprentices] to study math along with English,” said Continuous Improvement (CI) Office Management Analyst Masataka Kaibara, who was one of the two class instructors. “When they are proficient in mathematics, I believe they can utilize that skill and knowledge for promotion within their shops. They made significant growth even with a tight and limited schedule.”
In addition to classroom training, the command accommodates prospective journeymen with experiential opportunities to develop practical skills “on the job.” Such skills include English language, continuous improvement tools and preventative safety measures, all of which are highly valued in the U.S. ship repair industry. According to a Jan. 28 article from Seahawk-Umitaka, contract instructors taught basic math as part of the program until the 12th apprentice class in 1997. Since then, SRF’s training division received requests from employees to restore the math course to the program. Eventually, the command reintroduced it to the program curriculum in 2009 using teachers from the command itself. Math classes help apprentices improve old skills and gain new ones not necessarily covered in compulsory education to assist them in their various ship-repairing jobs.
“We learned how to convert different weights and measurement systems,” said Mason and Bricklayer, Keita Endo from the Insulation Shop. “They are different between Japan and the U.S. It wasn’t like what I learned at school,” added Endo. “The exams throughout the course were challenging, but I managed the final exam!”
Though the subject is included in Japanese compulsory education, math is applied in many tasks and situations in ship repair and the refresher course was deemed beneficial to the apprentices. Requests to reinstate the courses were made to the command’s CI office at several “Lean events,” that sought to improve business performance and eliminate process waste.
“Since the class began with elementary math,” said Ryo Ueyama from the Shipfitter Shop “I can now understand easy items up to progressively difficult ones. I really enjoyed it.”
“We had students from the 31st and 32nd apprentice classes,” said instructor and CI Office Management Analyst Yutaka Imamura. “All the apprentices were cooperative. They focused on the class, and overall we had a very rewarding time from the beginning to end.”
The refresher courses are based on math taught at Japanese public junior high schools. However, they do not cover all areas that junior high students usually learn.
While the program’s math curriculum covers basic areas like integers, fractions and algebra, the instructors make the learning material as relevant to their ship repair jobs as possible. For example, trigonometry is used in cutting sheet metal. This training builds up their knowledge to become future journeymen and potential supervisors at the command.
Aligned with other U.S. Naval shipyards’ apprenticeship programs, the SRF-JRMC apprentice program has played a leading role in developing skilled craftsmen since its launch in 1985.