Newport News Shipbuilding employees stand as they are recognized in the House gallery at the Virginia State Capitol. Photo by Lexi Whitehead

NNS at the Capitol

Published January 25, 2023

More than 30 Newport News Shipbuilding employees made their way to Richmond last week to meet with Virginia General Assembly members as they convene for their annual legislative session.

The shipbuilders’ primary goals were to inform the legislators of the great work performed by the men and women of NNS for the nation’s defense and to share personal stories about how they came to work for the team. They also thanked legislators for their previous support of joint investments in the shipyard and emphasized the critical importance of workforce development to the company’s continued success.

“Attending the Virginia General Assembly was very interesting, and I learned a lot from the experience,” said Carolene Sperle, a construction supervisor in the Columbia-Class Submarine Program.

Workforce development is top of mind for NNS and legislators on both sides of the aisle. NNS alone needs to hire thousands of skilled employees in the coming years to fulfill its U.S. Navy contracts.

“It was exciting to see both parties working collaboratively to transform workforce development in a way to give young people an opportunity to earn credentials, explore different careers, intern, become apprentices and pursue their dreams,” said Dr. Latitia McCane, director of Education at The Apprentice School.

The visit was organized by NNS’ Corporate Citizenship and Government Relations Office (K18). “Having shipbuilders meet one-on-one with legislators is invaluable. There is nothing more impactful than learning about the dynamic work and talent performed at NNS each day,” said Manager of Corporate Citizenship and Government Relations Tom Cosgrove.

In addition to meeting with local delegates and state senators, NNS employees also met with members of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration – Secretary of Labor Bryan Slater and Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade Nicole Riley. They shared plans currently underway to make Virginia more attractive to prospective employees and employers.

Shipbuilders from across NNS traveled to Richmond to represent the company. Photo by Lexi Whitehead

Kela Lofton, a Submarine Fleet Support program manager, appreciated the opportunity for shipbuilders to share their own stories.

“Having been a shipbuilder for 26 years, it was awesome to have the opportunity to go talk to the legislators and share our perspective in our own words,” she said. “It was important to be able to tell our individual stories. I think it was important for them as well so they can see it’s not just a corporate message. There are real lives involved. It gave a face to the story.”

In many cases, the legislators were hearing from shipbuilders who live in their districts.

Travis Wells, X51 Industrial Manufacturing and Systems Engineering manager, said he was grateful for the chance to speak on behalf of fellow shipbuilders about things that are important to the company and its workforce.

“I was pleasantly surprised about how many things they have in motion to help with workforce development and also how genuine each of the legislators were,” he said. “I thought everything they said they are working on were the right things from an NNS perspective, so I’m walking away with a positive experience.”