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Training for a Career

Courtesy of St. Johns River Community College

Keith Ward, vice president and project manager (left) and Jerry Burt, superintendent of Thomas May
Construction (right)

"The Apprenticeship Program helped me turn a job into a career," said Jerry Burt, superintendent with Thomas May Construction Company in Orange Park and graduate of the apprenticeship program through Northeast Florida Builders Association (NEFBA) and St. Johns River Community College (SJRCC). Burt was employed with Thomas May Construction who encouraged him to enroll in the carpentry apprenticeship program. "I wouldn't be where I am today without the encouragement and support from Thomas May Construction and the apprenticeship program," said Burt who completed the program three years ago. Since then he has been promoted to superintendent within the company.

Burt acknowledges that the first year of the program was the hardest, but he stressed that "if you can stay focused then you can stay on track." Burt emphasized for students to look at the "big picture" when considering entering the program. He stated that, "If you are committed to the industry and the program you can do it. It can be stressful working and going to class two nights a week for four years, but the outcome is an opportunity of a lifetime." Burt stated that he has benefited from the program in many ways such as travel, job security, great pay, and a terrific working environment. "The people at Thomas May Construction have a feeling of camaraderie which makes it a great place to work," said Burt.

Keith Ward, vice president and project manager for Thomas May Construction, stated that "for those who are serious about a trade, the apprenticeship program is the way to go." Ward is also a graduate of an apprenticeship program in Jacksonville. He agrees that he wouldn't be the vice president of a company if it weren't for an apprenticeship program to teach him the skills and knowledge of the trade. "The program with NEFBA and SJRCC is a great place to start. Not everyone is college material and may need to learn a trade for a job. With the apprenticeship program the student receives in depth, on-the-job training and academic courses to become a skilled and employable licensed journeyman," said Ward.

SJRCC and NEFBA share a common goal, to assist employers in meeting the rising workforce needs. The greatest need in Northeast Florida? Well-trained, highly skilled workers needed for the construction industry. The demand for the construction of new commercial and residential property, the renovation of existing property, and filling the job vacancies of those retiring from the construction industry is on the rise. This growth triggers the need for skilled workers such as carpenters, electricians, and heating and A/C mechanics.

The apprenticeship program is designed to educate and train individuals to become skilled journeymen in carpentry, electrical, and heating and air conditioning. Qualified individuals are hired to work for participating employers and also attend school two nights a week for four years. SJRCC provides extensive small-sized classroom instruction. NEFBA provides the on-the-job training. Benefits received while in the program are higher pay wages and pay increases every six months. Also, students who complete the electrical and heating and air conditioning apprenticeship programs are qualified to take the journeyman's license exam.

Benefits from the program include a more qualified workforce, job placement, and employee longevity with businesses. For example, the company pays the tuition of the student and the student's financial responsibility is for books. The student makes a commitment to the program and to the business for four years with opportunity for continued employment. This could promote longevity for the employer and employee. This is a great investment for any company.