ORANGE PARK – Shannon Beechum’s interest in airplanes and how they work inspired her dream of joining the Navy and becoming an aircraft electrician.
Although she didn’t enlist in the Navy, Beechum, 19, is still living her dream of becoming an aircraft electrician via a partnership between St. Johns River State College and Fleet Readiness Center Southeast, a program that began a year ago as SJR State and FRCSE sought a means for training the artisans of the future.
Through this hands-on, paid training opportunity, students begin at a rate of $15.60 an hour and are guaranteed a federal job upon completion of the program. The apprentices are prepared for trade jobs such as electronics mechanic, machinist, sheet metal mechanic, painting and aircraft mechanic.
“I’m doing exactly what I wanted to do,” said Beechum. “And I’m getting paid to go to school. It’s unbelievable. It’s a blessing.”
Beechum attends classes at the Orange Park campus, and although the course content is challenging and keeps her quite busy, she remains thrilled about her career path and is grateful for the program's exceptional instructors as well as the tremendous support from her classmates. Beechum said that working together on the material with her classmates makes all the difference for her.
Another plus for Beechum is having daily, relatable conversations with her dad about the apprenticeship. Beechum's dad, Terry, retired from FRCSE after working for the company for nearly 40 years. He was the one who introduced his daughter to the apprenticeship. Beechum said it’s hard to put into words what it means to her to be following in her dad’s footsteps. “I can't even describe the level of joy I’m feeling doing something that I know my dad’s so proud of," she said.
Beechum believes the apprenticeship program is also a wonderful opportunity for those not sure about their future. “I think it’s great for people who aren’t sure what they want to do in life, especially if the military was their intended route or they just have a simple interest in airplanes,” she said. “You don’t need any prior knowledge. You just submit an application, and they train you. It’s definitely great for your future.”
According to Anna Lebesch, Vice President of Talent Development at JAXUSA Partnership, “Advanced manufacturing, particularly in the area of aviation, is an industry that JAXUSA identified as one of our region’s assets, needs and opportunities. Therefore, it is vital that we support new business and education partnerships, which strategically develop an ongoing talent pipeline. This program with FRCSE and SJR State is an excellent example of our region’s employers, colleges and school districts working together to change the future of workforce development,” Lebesch said.
For more information regarding the apprenticeship program, call FRCSE at (904) 790-7536 or email them at Vincent.email@example.com. For more information about additional engineering programs at SJR State, call 386-312-4232.