I025 writing feature michael brayshaw


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I025 writing feature michael brayshaw

  1. 1. By Michael Brayshaw Norfolk Naval Shipyard’s Code 900T Apprentice Instructor Michael Reitano, Jr. might be considered an embodiment of the adage “don’t judge a book by its cover.” While he may still bear the physical hallmarks of a man who spent his first decade after high school graduation working to become a professional rock musician, his imposing presence, long hair and goatee belie Reitano’s gracious humility, passion for safety and appreciation for his shipyard career. Proud to follow in the footsteps of his father, Michael Reitano, Sr., who retired as a Shipwright Apprentice Instructor in 2006, Reitano has been in his current position for just over a year. “He retired in 2006, about halfway into my apprenticeship,” said Reitano. “He was actually my trade theory instructor for two years. Some people would think, ‘oh, that’s a distinct advantage’—oh, quite the contrary. He wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing and all the aspects. They got it in the classroom. I got it in the classroom, then at home, then that weekend,” he said with a laugh before adding, “but I will say about my father that he was incredibly fair. That’s definitely one of the traits I’ve picked up.” Another trait that makes Reitano particularly well suited for his current position is his care and concern for all apprentices under his instruction. “You have people who are great test takers; you have people who are street savvy as opposed to having book smarts. When you’re teaching, you have to be able to identify those people. We are dealing with people’s futures . . . not only do I want them to do the job right; I want to see them succeed too.” Wanting to see his apprentices succeed is second only to wanting apprentices to be safe. As a former golf course maintenance worker who saw firsthand a golfer suffer a severe eye injury for not obeying the rules of the course, Reitano emphasizes the necessity of all being committed to safety. “You have to have the safety aspects in your brain when you go out to do the jobs,” he said. “For scaffold builders, a scaffold can go up the entire height of a submarine or aircraft carrier. We’re talking incredible heights. If safety is not at the front of your mind, you’re putting people in jeopardy.” He added, “We want you to leave the same way you came in. I heard it when I came in; every apprentice I teach will hear it.” While Reitano respects and adheres to many traditions of apprenticeship instruction, he is not shy about updating and re-shaping the curriculum for the benefit of the apprentices. “Being a new instructor, I’m changing the program from what it’s been in the past,” he said. “The [Wood/Fabric] Shop and I both agree they need more hands-on.” Using his surveying equipment class as an example, Reitano said he uses classroom exercises as part of his firm belief in practical training. “If you don’t put your hands on it and use it, you lose it. Where they really learn and gain the skills throughout the four years is on-the-job training.”
  2. 2. Whether assisting prospective apprentices through the initial hiring process or as a facilitator for the NNSY Apprentice Association, Reitano works wherever possible for the betterment of the next generation of shipyard employees. “I’m their facilitator now,” he said of the association. “I think [the association’s] important for them. It helps them learn to become leaders. Another thing is all of the shops are in there, so they get to know people outside of their trade and it improves communication between the shops.” Ironically for a person who spent the years after high school graduation resisting a shipyard career, Reitano now appreciates it with the fervor of a man working twice as hard making up for that lost time. Reflecting on what led him to where he is now, Reitano said, “Pretty cut and dry . . . I saw Dad do it. I’ve always been kind of a performer. I love music, so I was in bands and things. So public speaking has never been an issue for me. I wanted to be a part of changing the environment. If nobody else, to be one voice to say [to apprentices]: ‘you have a career, you have a privilege, you have what a lot people in the area do not have.’ That kind of positive reinforcement affects work ethics just as much as negative reinforcement, if not more in my opinion.” Summing up what he likes best about his job, Reitano said, “Working with the future. I really think this is a position I could retire from because I enjoy it that much.”