Here at Van Dam Custom Boats perfection is not a requirement, but rather a way of life. The level of craftsmanship that comes out of the Van Dam shop is the best in the world. In order to continue this level of expertise we need to educate and train the next generation. Steve Van Dam believed in this so much that he created a four-year apprenticeship program for the company. This program is broken down into four different levels.
The first level (the first 30 days) is an introduction outlining the expectations for the apprentice throughout the program, including a brief history of the company as well as the company mission. He/she is given a list of hand tools to purchase in the first year. Following orientation he/she will follow and work with a skilled person.
In the second level (the first full year) of the program the list of tools need to be purchased in the order given. There is education on personal safety and the use of safety equipment. He/she is given a brief tutorial on the basics (machinery, wood storage, sanding, etc.). He/she is given a reading list, and will be tested on math skills. The majority of work time will be as a helper for a skilled person.
The third level (the second full year) introduces the need for continuing formal education as well as self-education. More in depth training continues with skills such as: machinery, paint/ varnish, metalworking and vacuum bagging. Along with all this the apprentice is learning the art of boatbuilding.
In the fourth level (the third and fourth year) the apprentice is given building projects to do on his/her own, and is learning about the various systems in the boats. Continuing to be taught by those in the shop, he/she is now expected to be doing much of the work on his/her own.
There is vast amount of material and detail that is taught during this 8000-hour apprenticeship program. It is designed to give an apprentice the knowledge and skills in order to create a beautiful wooden boat. The final and maybe the most important task for the apprentice, is to bring his/her drive and passion to the workbench.