The Space Coast Consortium Apprenticeship Program is an industry-driven apprenticeship program led by a group of advanced manufacturing companies operating on the Space Coast. It recently formally welcomed its first nine students into the two-year program at a formal event attended by government and business leaders, including Governor Ron DeSantis, Frank DiBello, president and CEO of Space Florida, Dr. James Richey, president of Eastern Florida State College and Thomas Lichtenberger, CEO of Festo Didactic.
Under the program, student apprentices will attend classes at Eastern Florida State two days a week and will work on the manufacturing floors of participating companies, including OneWeb Satellites, RUAG Space, Rocket Crafters and Knights Armament, three days a week. By mixing classroom learning with on-site learning, students will graduate with real, immediately marketable skills.
The program will develop mechatronics technicians in the first cohort of the program and, in the coming year, strives to also develop fiber composite technicians and advanced CNC/DNC machinists.
Upon graduation, students will earn apprenticeship certifications, as well as a two-year associate degree from Eastern Florida State College.
The consortium approach to the apprenticeship program is the first of its kind in Florida and comes only weeks after Governor DeSantis visited the Space Coast to sign CS/HB 7071, a broad workforce education bill that includes a number of provisions enhancing apprenticeship programs in Florida.
The consortium was formed in 2017 by Kai Schmidt, human resources director of OneWeb Satellites and Bryan Kamm, founder and principal of Kamm Consulting, to address a shortage of highly skilled advanced manufacturing workforce on the Space Coast.
Having recently relocated to Florida from Germany, Schmidt says he understands first-hand how similar programs are critical to Germany’s manufacturing prowess.
Kamm likewise had experience with the German model and saw how it could not only help with his own mission to staff up technology company RUAG’s new Titusville factory but could benefit the region as a whole.
"The Space Coast is an area where the future is being staged in advanced manufacturing for commercial space, aerospace, aircraft and defense industries," said Kamm. "This area has seen its highs and lows during past space programs. Now, in order for these companies to supply their workforce with the technical skills required for the future, they are looking ahead to assure they remain competitive to build a more sustainable and stronger future economy."
In February, SCCAP received full approval from FDOE as a state-registered apprenticeship program and today will become only the second entity in the United States to implement Festo Didactics’ Mechatronics Apprenticeship Program Partners (MAP2).
"MAP2 expansion in Florida marks an important milestone for industrial education,” said Thomas Lichtenberger, CEO of Festo Didactic, North America. "We couldn’t be more proud to partner with SCCAP and Eastern Florida State College. The support and visionary implementation from Governor DeSantis and state legislators will catalyze Industry 4.0 career-readiness, giving students a competitive edge and critical exposure to jobs of the future."