There are 3 phases of the training. Initial training conducted at Piney Point, MD. Basic Seamanship, Lifeboat, Firefighting, etc. Second phase is ship side where 30 days are spent in each of the job categories; Deck, Engine, & Steward. Third phase is advanced training dependent upon your job category choice.
As an Apprentice my son completed his initial training and sat “idle” for a month waiting to ship out. You could not leave and they kept you busy with various different jobs, unpaid. He finally shipped out in February and will complete his ship side training next week. SIU is having him return home at this time rather than back to Piney Point for the advanced training. They are not going to have him return for the third phase of training until they have a job they can send him on (which works out well, I believe he’s a bit homesick).
There are upfront costs to the training. In the past if you were accepted you paid some fees for documentation but you began training nonetheless. Now, however, you have to have everything in order to be accepted. You must already have your MMC, TWIC, and Passport. Physical, Drug Screen, and certain clothing. You also have to pay for uniforms and travel to Piney Point.
While the wages as an apprentice are dismal, look at the cost side of the equation. There is a lot of training and experience obtained basically for free. They have trained, housed, and fed my son for 7 months. I will find out exactly what documentation he has obtained when he gets home next week.
The program is not conducive to someone that has a home, family, or bills. If you have none of that then it could be perfect.
I would also suggest that you don’t burn any bridges with any current employer. The Pacific Northwest takes applications in the early months of the year and much of the work is during the summer (Inland Boatman’s Union). The East Coast in contrast slows down during the summer and is busy during the winter, primarly due to home heating oil transport. Be aware of these cycles. The East Coast is laying up a lot of boats right now and companies are laying people off, or modifying schedules to try and retain employees.