HII Graduates 184 Shipbuilders from Apprentice School
- Rear Adm. Mat Winter, the U.S. Navy’s deputy program executive officer for the F-35 Lightning II, gave the commencement address at The Apprentice School graduation. Photo by John Whalen.
- Apprentice School graduate Tiffani Brown Powell, coatings specialist, rang the Apprentice School bell, a tradition during the commencement exercises. Photo by Matt Hildreth.
Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) hosted commencement exercises on Saturday for 184 graduates of the company’s Apprentice School located at Newport News Shipbuilding. The ceremony was held at Liberty Baptist Church Worship Center in Hampton.
Rear Adm. Mat Winter, the U.S. Navy’s deputy program executive officer for the F-35 Lightning II, reminded the company’s newest shipbuilders during his commencement address that everything they have achieved and will continue to achieve makes a difference.
“Newport News Shipbuilding is a leader—a leader on the global stage in providing war-fighting capability to our Navy,” Winter said. “You just have to look around and see our submarine fleet and our surface fleet and those great American aircraft carriers that are here and around the world doing the diplomacy and the engagement and the power projection that keeps our nation safe and allows us to do what we need to do every day. The fact is that those sailors and Marines are out on the pointy end, and they are there because of you, and because of what you’ve done and what you are going to do.”
Eighty-eight apprentices completed an optional, advanced program, which includes coursework in subjects such as marine design, production planning, modeling and simulation, and marine engineering—culminating with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Seventy-nine apprentices earned honors, which combines academic and craft grades to determine overall performance. Fifteen graduates completed the program with a perfect 4.0 grade point average in the required academic curriculum. Nineteen graduates were recognized as Gold Athletic Award recipients for outstanding achievement in four consecutive years of Apprentice School collegiate athletics.
Of the 184 graduates, 13 are military veterans or are currently serving in the Armed Services as reservists and guardsmen.
Newport News Shipbuilding President Matt Mulherin addressed the graduates as the shipyard’s newest leaders. “Leadership is not a title or a position,” he said. “A leader produces results and sets examples. You, indeed, are all leaders, and I commend you and I applaud you on this defining moment in your shipbuilding careers and in your lives.”
Evan George Danz received the Homer L. Ferguson Award for earning the highest grade point average for required academic and craft grades combined. Danz is a naval architect who began his shipbuilding career in 2013 as an outside machinist apprentice.
“There is truth in the old saying: ‘Blame the carpenter and not the tool,’” Danz said. “A drill is only as effective as the person who holds it. Our tasks may have been difficult and some have been repetitive, but we were always improving our technique, speed, efficiency and critical thinking. We are more valuable to our shipbuilding community than any tool, drill, saw or crane could ever be.”
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.