170 Graduate from Apprentice School

HII Celebrates 170 Graduates of The Apprentice School at Newport News Shipbuilding Ceremony

NEWPORT NEWS, VA (STL.News) Global engineering and defense technologies provider HII (NYSE: HII) hosted commencement exercises today for 170 graduates of the company’s Apprentice School at Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS).  The ceremony was held at Liberty Live Church in Hampton.

Newport News Shipbuilding President Jennifer Boykin began the event by addressing the graduates as the shipyard’s newest leaders.  “I want you to know how proud I am of each of you for everything that you’ve accomplished,” Boykin said.  “Today is just the next step towards your leadership role at Newport News Shipbuilding, and we and our country need you more than ever.  As shipbuilders, we take on the truly unique honor of building vessels that protect our country and go into harm’s way.”

The commencement address was delivered by Karen Henneberger, program manager for New Ship Design at Naval Reactors, a joint Department of Energy and Department of Navy program.  She told graduates at the heart of The Apprentice School that their development is craftsmanship, leadership, and scholarship.  During her address, she offered a deep Naval Reactors’ perspective on each of these tenets as they relate to the graduates’ current responsibilities at Newport News Shipbuilding and their impact beyond the shipyard gates.

Like Boykin, Henneberger emphasized that the Navy needs shipbuilders.

Henneberger said, “We need shipbuilders more than ever.  We need to find ways to put more ships to sea, to maintain our nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers in more efficient ways, and to deploy innovative capabilities.”

Additionally, she encouraged the graduates, “Think about safety in everything you do, your safety and the safety of your fellow shipbuilders … Think about quality, it matters.  We need you to be an expert at your craft and not forget the tools of your craft as you move up the ladder.  Model the high standard for first-time quality that we need every shipyard worker to embrace.”

Henneberger also added a fourth tenet about relationships.  Specifically, she highlighted the relationship between Naval Reactors and NNS, describing it as complex and as a regulator and a partner.  She said, “It’s our responsibility to ensure the various facets of our program are meeting requirements.  We layout facts in an unemotional way to insist that members of our program root out problems and face facts brutally.”

Speaking next, and in Apprentice School tradition, was the apprentice receiving the Homer L. Ferguson Award, which recognizes the graduate with the highest honors.  This year it was Christopher S. Rose, a deck electrician who began his career in 2017 at NNS.  He has supported a variety of projects in the Virginia-class program, as well as the Nimitz-class and Ford-class programs, and is currently working on USS George Washington (CVN 73).

In his remarks to the graduates, Rose reflected on the first piece of advice he received on his first day at the shipyard, “always watch where you’re stepping.” He shared that this seemed like basic advice at the time, however it has since become key in helping him frame his thoughts to overcome challenges.

“Always watch for your step, plan where you are going, and put the journey before the destination,” Rose said.  “No matter what you’re doing, the most important step is the next one.  Once you know what you need to do, it’s just a matter of logistics.”

As the event closed, Boykin reminded the graduates of what they heard at the ceremony.  She said, “Your critical role in the defense of our nation cannot be understated.  The Navy depends on us to deliver capable, reliable vessels that help keep our sailors safe.  And I’m depending on you to bring your skill, your experience, your knowledge, and your heart to every challenge that you face.  So always do your absolute best.  Never settle for good enough and always keep learning.  If you do this, I know that our nation’s future will be safer and brighter.”

The following is a profile of the graduating class:

  • 50 completed an optional, advanced program, earning an associate or bachelor’s degree.  The program includes coursework in subjects such as marine design, production planning, modeling and simulation, and marine engineering.
  • 93 earned honors, a combination of academic and craft grades that determine overall performance.
  • 8 completed the Advanced Shipyard Operations Program, allowing them to continue their post-secondary education, expand their experience in waterfront operations and develop leadership skills to improve the quality and efficiency of production, manufacturing, and maintenance processes.
  • 48 completed Frontline FAST, an accelerated skills training program for potential foremen.
  • 24 inducted into The National Society of Leadership Success.
  • 28 completed the World Class Shipbuilder Curriculum and advance optional program with a perfect 4.0-grade point average.
  • 16 are military veterans or are currently serving in the armed services as reservists and guardsmen, representing every branch of the military.
  • 8 earned athletic awards.

The Apprentice School accepts over 200 apprentices per year.  The school offers four- to eight-year, tuition-free apprenticeships in 19 trades and eight optional advanced programs.  Apprentices work a 40-hour week and are paid for all work, including time spent in academic classes.

Through partnerships with Thomas Nelson Community College, Tidewater Community College, and Old Dominion University, The Apprentice School’s academic program provides the opportunity to earn associate degrees in business administration, engineering and engineering technology, and bachelor’s degrees in mechanical or electrical engineering.

HII is a global engineering and defense technologies provider.  With a 135-year history of trusted partnerships in advancing U.S. national security, HII delivers critical capabilities ranging from the most powerful and survivable naval ships ever built to unmanned systems, ISR, and AI/ML analytics.  HII leads the industry in mission-driven solutions that support and enable a networked, all-domain force.  Headquartered in Virginia, HII’s skilled workforce is 44,000 strong.