Eastern Florida State College and a team of industry partners welcomed 10 new students into a specialized apprenticeship program Monday that is playing an important role in providing area companies with high-tech workers.
The Space Coast Consortium Apprenticeship Program – an industry driven effort led by several advanced manufacturing companies in Brevard County – is spearheading the move.
The first group of seven Mechatronics apprentice students entered the program in 2019 and completed their work in December 2020, with the new group of Advanced Machinist apprentices beginning their studies this month on EFSC’s Cocoa Campus.
Under the program, students attend classes two days a week at EFSC and work three days a week on the manufacturing floors of participating companies. The new group will be employed at Blue Origin, Knight’s Armament and Diamondback America.
By mixing classroom learning with on-the-job training, students graduate with a state Apprenticeship Certificate and EFSC machinist certificate credits that can count toward an Associate Degree in Engineering Technology from the college.
The new students entered the program in a signing ceremony at Airbus OneWeb Satellites at Kennedy Space Center where EFSC officials and others called it a key to growing the Space Coast economy.
“Providing a pipeline of highly skilled employees to local high-tech industries is a vital part of our mission, which is why we continue to invest in new equipment and tailor educational opportunities to meet that goal,” said Dr. Randall Fletcher, EFSC’s Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs and Chief Learning Officer.
“Also central to our effort is strengthening partnerships with the outstanding organizations and companies present today. Together, we are making our economy and community stronger and helping to create excellent new jobs.”
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“Apprenticeships such as these are an important alternative pathway that leads to rewarding careers and allows individuals to further their education through credentials they can build on,” he said.
Others at the event included State Sen. Tom Wright and leaders from Airbus OneWeb Satellites, Space Florida, the Consortium and representatives from the participating companies.
Among them was John Blankenship, Director of Manufacturing for Blue Origin Florida, which is investing $1 billion in a rocket manufacturing facility and campus at KSC.
The company is targeting late 2022 for the maiden launch of its New Glenn rocket, a heavy-lift vehicle built at the spaceport that can carry astronauts to the International Space Station.
“With this program, the state of Florida is on the correct path to rebuilding our manufacturing industry and get it back on top where it should be,” said Blankenship.
The program is modeled on apprenticeship programs in Germany where they are a fixture of its economy.
Consul General Andreas Siegel from Germany’s Miami Consulate called the Space Coast program an example of “fruitful German-America cooperation that will strengthen the workforce in key industrial areas which are confronted with growing international competition.”
Along with the Mechatronics and Advanced Machinists apprentices, the Consortium plans to launch another EFSC apprentice program for Fiber Composite Technicians in August.