Dec. 15, 2011

Virginia Guard Airmen receive apprenticeship certificates

By Cotton Puryear 
Virginia Department of Military Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH — Sixteen Virginia National Guard Airmen from the Virginia Beach-based 203rd RED HORSE Squadron received apprenticeship certificates Dec. 3 as part of a program that translates military job skills directly into marketable civilian job skills.


Lt. Col. Pete Garner (center left), commander of the 203rd RED HORSE Squadron, presents a Certificate of Completion of Apprenticeship to Tech Sgt. Brian A. Rizzo (center right) Dec. 3 in Virginia Beach. Joining the presentation were 1st Lt. Bryan Hicks (far left), Apprentice Partnership Initiative coordinator, and Chief Master Sgt. Jeffery W. Frazier (far right), Virginia Air National Guard state command chief master sergeant. The API gives Soldiers and Airmen civilian credit for the skills they acquire through military schools as well as the duties they perform when they are in uniform. Sixteen Airmen received certificates during the presentation event. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Department of Military Affairs)

The Virginia’s Department of Military Affairs created an Apprentice Partnership Initiative that works with the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry to allow Virginia Guard Soldiers and Airmen to get credit for the skills they acquire through military schools as well as the duties they perform when they are in uniform.

“This is another professional credential for my civilian job that makes me competitive with my peers,” said Tech Sgt. Brian Rizzo, a ground safety officer in the Air Guard who also works as a safety officer with the city of Suffolk. “This will also make me more competitive for future opportunities as I advance in my career.”

The program is open to both Soldiers and Airmen. Apprenticeship programs traditionally produce well trained and highly skilled workers in specific trade field, and civilian employers like to hire workers who already have the experience and training so they don’t have to spend time and money for training. Guardsmen with these skills are more competitive on the civilian market and can be hired at a higher rate. Over time the earning potential is also higher.

“Most of our Air Guard occupations and many of our Army Guard occupations translate directly to what have been considered traditional apprenticeships, such as avionics technicians, electricians, and HVAC,” said Virginia Army National Guard 1st Lt. Bryan Hicks, Virginia National Guard’s API coordinator. “Our partnership with the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry is unique in that we have "apprenticed" virtually all of the many different military jobs, to include infantry. Infantry Soldiers have much to offer civilian employers as they possess a variety of skills, from managing troops to human resource experience, which are very marketable in the civilian sector."

Guardsmen that sign up for the program will need to complete the Apprentice Action Form based on their working military occupation.  Once completed and turned in, they become a registered apprentice.

While in the apprentice status, the Guardsmen must keep track of their hours on the job through a journal. After completing all DOLI standards and guidance for that trade, the Guardsmen will turn in the required documentation. Once approved, the Guardsmen become certified journeyworkers.

The journey card allows eligibility to test for state certification. The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry is recognized nationwide as an accredited certification and the certification can then be used across the country.

Civilians going through a similar program could spend anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 to get the same education and training Guardsmen get just for doing their jobs.

The program got its roots in 2009 from a company first sergeant who wanted to help their troops find civilian jobs. The idea was adopted and became available for the entire Virginia National Guard. The program currently has about 325 Soldiers and Airmen registered and encompasses almost all military jobs and fields.

The program also has plans to make registering for the program a requirement for new Soldiers coming into the Guard as part of the recruit sustainment program.

Additional information about the program can be request through email at

Additional reporting by Capt. Matt Nowak

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