Growing up in Aldan, Pennsylvania, Michael Damico learned about construction by helping his father and uncle with their work. From plumbing to carpentry to masonry, Michael gained skills at a young age that would later help him find a fulfilling career.
"I always needed to stay busy," Michael said. "I like to see a finished product and say, 'I did that!'"
Although Michael enjoyed working in construction, there was never a steady stream of work. He wanted a stable career that would allow him to support himself and one day a family.
Michael heard about an apprenticeship opportunity at the Philadelphia Naval Foundry from his [now] father-in-law. Since foundry work required many of the same skills used in construction, Michael felt he’d be a good fit for the program. He applied, was accepted, and began his apprenticeship as a molder in 2014 after completing a few prerequisite college classes.
"I knew I had an awesome career opportunity ahead of me," Michael said, remembering how excited he was to get started.
As a molder apprentice, he makes submarine propellers for the U.S. Navy. He starts by making the bottom of the mold, called a drag, and then makes a cope – the top of the mold. His proudest moment on the job so far? The day he completed his first mold.
"It is a pretty rare job to have," he said. "We are the only foundry that makes these propellers."
The apprenticeship program, which partners with the U.S. Department of Labor, allows Michael to gain extensive hands-on experience and a strong educational foundation. Michael takes classes every few weeks that focus on safety processes and correct techniques for molding.
He says his apprenticeship has taught him valuable professional skills like working smarter and planning ahead. The experience has also helped him become more open to learning, and more patient with learning new job skills and trades.
"I like that we get to help out the men and women that are going to be in those submarines," Michael explained. "It’s just good to know that we have a hand in something that helps our defense program."
He looks forward to graduating from the apprenticeship program in February 2018. After that, he hopes to move up within the foundry and one day to become a supervisor.
Michael’s advice to future apprentices is to "always try your best and do your best work because at the end of the day when the job is complete, your name will be attached to that project."
Apprenticeships offer the unique opportunity to learn valuable career skills while still earning a steady salary. For more information on apprenticeship programs visit www.dol.gov/apprenticeship.
Editor’s note: The "DOL Working for You" series highlights the Labor Department’s programs in action. View other blog posts in the series here.
Amy Dennis is an intern with the department’s Office of Public Affairs in Philadelphia.