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Apprentices chosen for Letterkenny program

May 01, 2001

Apprentices chosen for Letterkenny program



By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

Letterkenny's apprentice programPhoto: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Faced with military downsizing and an aging work force, the Letterkenny Army Depot has initiated an apprentice program to train new electronic mechanics.

Letterkenny and Army Material Command began working on the program in December in an effort to establish a work force that can continue the technical work at the depot as current employees retire.

Twelve apprentices began the four-year program, which includes classroom and on-the-job training, Monday.

Hagerstown Community College will provide the training at the depot.

"It is important to establish the apprenticeship program so we can train a successor work force before we lose the skills and knowledge," said Dr. Jerry Peek, Army Material Command Apprentice Program coordinator.

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AMC coordinates the production of weapons and products used by the Army.

More than 60 percent of Army Material Command's skilled blue-collar work force will be eligible for retirement by fiscal year 2005.

"With the downsizing in the 1990s, we lost a lot of people," Peek said. "The pipeline for hiring new people was shut off in the 1990s . We want to open that so we can continue to support soldiers in the field with the best equipment we can provide."

In a ceremony Tuesday morning, Letterkenny and Army Material Command officials welcomed the 11 men and one woman into the program, which is funded by the Army.

"We're not doing this for Letterkenny or Army Material Command, but for the soldiers - the 19 and 20-year-old guys and girls out there," Peek said.

The apprentice program affects depots nationwide. So far 85 apprentices, including the 12 at Letterkenny, have been hired, he said.

More than 350 people applied for the program at Letterkenny, said Sandy Eldridge, personnel management specialist.

"We have recognized for a while a real need to replace technical skills that have been eroded or cut in recent years due to retirement and downsizing," said Col. Robert W. English III, depot commander.

He said the instruction and training will be intensive and tailored to Letterkenny's mission to build missile systems.

The depot, which opened in 1941 as an ammunition dump, was included in the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure Act and is in the process of turning over 1,500 acres to the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority. Downsizing included slashing Letterkenny's jobs by more than half in the last six years.

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