Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) hosted commencement exercises on Saturday, March 2, 2019, for 157 graduates of The Apprentice School at Newport News Shipbuilding.
The apprenticeship is a rigorous four- to eight-year program designed to develop the next generation of shipyard leaders. The Apprentice School, which first opened in 1919 with 126 apprentices, is celebrating its centennial anniversary this year. Over the last 100 years, the school has produced more than 10,800 graduates.
“To casually say that you build ships falls woefully short of how you serve the United States of America,” said Jennifer Boykin, President, Newport News Shipbuilding. “I’m challenging you to think bigger. You build diplomacy, you build democracy, and you build freedom. You are our future, and our legacy is in your capable hands.
“I have no doubt that the dedication, determination and sacrifice that led to your success today will ensure our collective success tomorrow and for centuries to come,” she said.
Kevin McNeill of Greensboro, N.C., received the Homer L. Ferguson Award, which recognizes the apprentice graduating with the highest honors. He is the first African-American student in the school’s history to earn the special recognition. “I never intended to work as a steel fabrication apprentice, but I’ve gained experiences and opportunities that I may not have received elsewhere,” he said. “I’ve learned a great deal of discipline and patience. My message for you today is: If you’re not where you want to be in your career or you feel like you’ve strayed off track from your goals, know that each experience is what makes you unique. The path to our destination is never straight. Keep walking with a purpose.”
The following is a profile of the 2018 graduating class:
The Apprentice School accepts about 225 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.