Wright-Patt, Miami Valley CTC provide apprenticeship opportunities

Trevor Hall, an electrical trades apprentice, uses his skills to repair a light fixture at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Trevor Hall, an electrical trades apprentice, uses his skills to repair a light fixture at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

High school graduates enhance 88th Civil Engineer Squadron’s mission

For more than a year, fresh-faced high school students, now 2020 graduates, from the Miami Valley Career Technology Center’s School-to-Work Program have been boosting their skills as apprentices with the 88th Civil Engineer Squadron at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

While still students in 2019, the 10 young men in the skilled-trades field began their work, rotating schedules of two weeks on base with two weeks at MVCTC for academic and career-technical classes. The apprenticeship program, which is coordinated by MVCTC’s Robert Ewry, resulted in the young men applying for full-time employment on base after graduation.

Wright-Patt leadership and the career center worked for nearly a year to develop the unique partnership. The result was high school students expanding their career-technical knowledge of skilled trades while earning a good wage. This also allowed Wright-Patt the ability to meet its infrastructure-maintenance mission. Now that the young men graduated high school, all 10 have landed full-time or temporary full-time positions with CE.

They are: Domenick Clem and Jacob Fletcher, construction carpentry; Trevor Hall, Nolan Pack and Rylan Roberts, electrical trades; Brandon Mathenia and Alex Weeks, heavy equipment; Jacob Griffith, HVAC; and Zachary Payne and Zane Wullenweber, welding.

“We’re teaching them entry-level skills to be successful in getting a job,” Ewry said. “These were top students in their classes. This is life-changing for these kids.”

Ewry and career center instructors helped the students apply for the federal positions. Their parents are pleased with their success, he said.

“One mother told me her son gets his clothes out the night before, packs his lunch and is ready to go for the next day’s work,” Ewry said. “It’s worked out well. We’re hoping to get students in the pipeline every year. It’s a great program.”

An MVCTC senior student still in the program also has been placed with CE’s natural resources program, as has another with one of the base’s contractors, he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic kept the program from being fully repeated, but officials hope it can resume in the future, said 88 CES Director Ron Lee.

“From our perspective, the program worked out well,” he said. “The students were energetic; they were motivated, and they loved learning. Our employees loved teaching them. The pride it generated on both sides was awesome.”

The students' eagerness and curiosity about the base were palpable, with all hoping to secure a permanent position, Lee said.

“The intensity, the energy were just amazing,” he added. “It energized our older folks. They were so proud to be able to teach their craft to 17- and 18 year olds.”

Daniel Jessup, 88 CES deputy director, said the young workers' motivation and sense of being part of something bigger than themselves, the patriotism, also stood out.

“The program has filled a need in our civilian workforce and made our team very proud to have them on board,” Jessup said.

One of the base’s CES supervisors working with two students said they had been a “huge benefit.”

“They have really helped out all the journeymen we have working on the jobs we do,” said Brian Dolney, 88 CES Area A electrical systems supervisor. “They have been replacing and repairing light fixtures and installing circuits alongside the journeymen. No matter which direction we send them, they go out and do what we ask them to do and then come back with a smile on their face.”

Greg Wheelock, 88 CES structures foreman, said his two students brought skills to the table from their MVCTC schooling, then “became sponges to learn commercial and residential” applications and upped everyone’s morale.

The 88 CES personnel welcomed the opportunity to train their potential replacements when they retire, Dolney added.

Electrical apprentice Nolan Pack, a 19 year old from West Carrollton, said he is grateful for a “good-paying job with a lot of benefits” and the chance to do such things as opening up panels to see how circuits work. He attends Sinclair College in the evening to continue his education and learn more about safety regulations and measures.

Construction carpentry helper Jacob Fletcher, 18, said he has enjoyed his experience and how it even helped him do odd jobs around his family’s Miamisburg home on weekends.

His favorite base project so far has been re-roofing and re-sheeting the Area A west ramp’s fire tower training site.

“I took pride in how it came out,” Fletcher said. “I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have this job. I am happy I work on a military base. I’m learning a lot more and everybody I work with has taught me a lot.”

All 10 apprentices are on a structured civilian training program to get them to a journeyman level, Dolney said.

“Their work and training are documented every day,” Wheelock said.

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