Space Coast launches first spaceflight industry-led apprenticeship program

Student apprentices will receive on-the-job experience

Gov. Ron DeSantis was on the Space Coast Monday helping students pave the way when it comes to space-related apprenticeships.

MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. – State and local leaders welcomed the first students to a new industry-led apprenticeship program based in Florida's Space Coast.

On Monday, nine students officially began the two-year Space Coast Consortium Apprenticeship Program.

Under the two-year program, student apprentices will attend classes at Eastern Florida State College two days a week and work on the manufacturing floors of Space Coast companies three days a week. The companies participating include OneWeb Satellites, RUAG Space, Rocket Crafters and Knights Armament.

The kick-off event came a month after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill to increase apprenticeships throughout the state.

"I think nowhere is probably in more of a need than right here on the Space Coast," DeSantis said.  "There's a need for having a skilled manufacturing workforce, and I think the students here today will hopefully have an opportunity to learn some good skills."

Christian Arias is studying mechatronics engineering and said the program will help him graduate with real-world skills in the space industry.

"This is the future. It's what everything is going to turn to," Arias said.  "If you know how to fix the things that are doing the jobs, you've got a job forever."

Designers of the program said it will enhance the Space Coast workforce, further cementing it as the center for high-technology aerospace manufacturing.

Once a student completes the program, that person will be offered a full-time position with one of the member companies.

"This is a career, guaranteed basically as long as I put in the effort," Arias said.  "With the on-the-job training that you'll have and the studying they'll have alongside of it, you build the strongest foundation possible."

Program organizers said they're looking to expand the program in the future with a goal of accepting up to 30 students in Fall 2020.

About the Author:

Mark Lehman became a News 6 reporter in July 2014, but he's been a Central Florida journalist and part of the News 6 team for much longer. While most people are fast asleep in their bed, Mark starts his day overnight by searching for news on the streets of Central Florida.