My Coast Guard
Commentary | April 13, 2022

Enlisted service members preparing for tomorrow and improving today

By Master Chief Petty Officer Adam Kipp, Base Portsmouth, Va.  

Imagine a way to better prepare your transition to the civilian workforce and improve your professional skills while still in the service at no cost to you. There is no extra work required to what you are doing everyday as an enlisted service member.  

The United Services Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP) is a formal military training program that provides Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard service members the opportunity to improve their job skills and to complete their civilian apprenticeship requirements while on active duty. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) provides the nationally recognized Certificate of Completion of Apprenticeship upon the completion of the program.  

Where to start 

To start, visit the website to determine which option best fits your circumstances and review the trade apprenticeships available to you by service and by rating. After you select an apprenticeship you are interested in that is associated to your rating and relevant to your current position you can enroll in one of the two options.  

The first option is time based where you record your hours of work completed every day. These apprenticeships vary from 2,000 to 6,000 hours or roughly one to three years of working a normal 40-hour work-week job. USMAP knows service members work many more hours, and you can log exactly what you are working ashore, deployed, and at sea to complete the apprenticeship in less time.  

For E5 and above, a second option of competency based is available.  It has a one year (12 month) enrollment minimum and you complete it by demonstrating your competency in different skill areas. This is similar to completing a personal qualification standard (PQS) packet.   Both options lead to the same certificate of completion from DOL and journeyman status in your trade. 

As an enlisted member at any way along your career is highly encouraged to look into this program and see how it can help you. It can be expensive and sometimes difficult to attain your apprenticeship in the civilian sector. Many jobs pay at a lower pay scale until you complete your apprenticeship.  

“This program gives you an opportunity to capture the skills and experience you have attained in the service, performing your daily duties, and earn a nationally-recognized certificate of completion from the U.S. Dept of Labor,” said retired Master Chief Petty Officer Shawn Marchinek, who is now the Deputy Director of USMAP. “This also allows you to receive credit for the military experience and skills you have, but in a form that the civilian industry can immediately recognize. As a result, this could potentially allow you as a veteran the opportunity to walk into a business, union, [or] industry at a higher status and earn more money.” 

Apprentice first steps 

Visit the website. Scroll to “Review Eligible Trades.” Click on Coast Guard for a list of our service’s ratings. Under the “Select a Rating” table click on your rating. In the “Select a Trade” table select a trade. Some ratings have a couple of trades available, while others have multiple. The website will generate a table with the applicable time-based or competency-based links to learn more about each trade and its requirements.   

Senior Chief Petty Officer Brooks Fox, an electronics technician stationed at Electronic Support Detachment (ESD) Atlantic City, N.J., and enrolled into the electronics technician hour-based apprenticeship in June 2021, which requires 4,000 hours for completion. The competency-based process required 12 months of demonstration in the trade.  

Four thousand hours may seem like a lot, however, you may have some hours that can be applied due to A-school and any C-schools you’ve attended, along with how many years you have been on the job. This will all be determined in your pre-registration. Then, track your hours and have your supervisor verify your hours.  

“USMAPS is an outstanding program which takes your current career path in the Coast Guard and equates it to a journeyman certification in the public sector,” Fox said.  

“One of the benefits to the program is that your prior experience within [your] rating may qualify you for up to 2,000 hours towards completion of your apprenticeship. Although not every apprenticeship path allows for competency-base completion, the USMAP program gives you the option for competency or hourly-based completion of the electronics technician apprenticeship program.” 

Fox says the hourly-based apprenticeship was the right choice for him, and that it only took him a few minutes each week.  

“I’m currently 400 hours shy of receiving my journeyman certification through the USMAP program,” Fox said. “But I have still managed to benefit from the program demonstrating professional growth in my enlisted evaluations as well as mentoring junior technicians through the program. It’s a worthwhile investment in yourself to account for work that you do on a daily basis with minimal effort. I know as I prepare to retire from the Coast Guard the receipt of the official Electronics Technician Journeyman certification from the Department of Labor via the USMAP program will give me the edge in my transition to the civilian sector.” 

By taking these extra steps, once you separate from the Coast Guard, you may find yourself to be more marketable with a completed apprenticeship compared to someone with more years on a job and who does not have one.  

“I wish I knew more about USMAP while I was active duty, both for myself but more for those I supervised,” said Marchinek. “This program gives you an opportunity to capture the skills and experience you have already attained in the service, performing your daily duties, and earn a nationally-recognized certificate of completion from the U.S. Dept of Labor. This could potentially allow you as a veteran the opportunity to walk into a business, union, industry in a higher status, earn more money. This also allows you to receive credit for the military experience and skills you have, but in a form that the civilian industry can immediately recognize. 

USMAP provides many apprenticeship opportunities across most ratings in 75 current trades with new ones added every year. In addition to traditional trades like electrician, carpenter, welder, and baker there are many others not so traditional such as manager, retail store, administrative services manager, medical secretary, and working dog handler. The opportunity is there, it is free and you are already doing the work.  Check out USMAP today, improve your skills and prepare for the future.” 

To learn more and enroll into USMAP, visit their website or email Shawn Marchinek.