NNS Recognizes National Apprenticeship Week
Published November 15, 2023
This week marks the ninth annual National Apprenticeship Week, a time of celebrating and spotlighting the value apprentices bring to industry, something that Newport News Shipbuilding has realized for more than 100 years.
The Apprentice School at Newport News Shipbuilding was founded in 1919 and is the preeminent apprenticeship program in the nation. The school offers four-, five-, and eight-year apprenticeships in 19 shipbuilding disciplines and eight advanced programs of study.
Below are NNS apprentices past and present describing in their own words what the school has meant to their careers.
I am a second-generation shipbuilder and began my apprenticeship in 2002 as an X11 shipfitter apprentice. As an apprentice, I was fortunate enough to get an education, learn a skilled trade, play four years of baseball for The Apprentice School, and provide for my family. Throughout my career here at Newport News Shipbuilding, I have been extremely fortunate to continue my education by earning an MBA from the College of William & Mary in 2022, continue to grow as a leader within NNS, create lasting relationships with the best shipbuilders in the world, and most importantly, build great ships. It is not lost on me that none of this would have been possible without the mentoring from many of the extraordinary shipbuilders who came before me. To say that I couldn’t be more proud to be an Apprentice alumnus and world-class shipbuilder is truly an understatement.
I am from Rocky Mount, North Carolina. I moved to Newport News in October 2013, straight out of high school after being recruited by The Apprentice School women’s basketball team to continue my basketball journey. I also started my first official job ever at Newport News Shipbuilding as an X33 insulator.
I had no prior job experience or general knowledge of the shipyard or The Apprentice School, other than knowing that I would be paid to work on a ship, further my education and play basketball all at the same time.
During my apprenticeship, the road wasn’t easy. After a long, hard day at work, there was basketball practice that included a lot of running and staying in shape. There were times I just wanted to give up, pack my bags and move back home. By April 2014, I had lost my apprenticeship due to my academics. I was no longer able to play basketball or be considered as an apprentice. I was blessed to be able to keep my job, but that wasn’t enough for me.
I took classes at what was then Thomas Nelson Community College, and by November 2014, I was able to call myself an apprentice again. I graduated and am currently an X33 supervisor in the Virginia-Class Submarine Program. I have the opportunity to coach, mentor and train employees to do our part in building the great ships every day for the U.S. Navy.
I’m grateful and thankful for the opportunities thus far. I would do it all over again with only one change: take better advantage of every learning and self-growing opportunity that is offered. Network early and work with integrity. You never know who is looking and who is watching. Also, it’s just the right thing to do!
I first heard about The Apprentice School in high school through my best friend. At the time, I had planned to attend a four-year university. I didn’t want to start working in a shipyard environment. I was accepted into Old Dominion University’s engineering program, but I struggled with a full course load and working part-time jobs. One day I saw that same friend who tried to convince me to attend The Apprentice School. The school was paying for his classes and even travel time.
Needless to say, I went home and applied that night. I didn’t get accepted the first time, so I kept applying and applying, then I finally got an interview. I came into The Apprentice School in October 2017 as an X42 pipefitter.
Once enrolled, I improved greatly as a writer, thanks to my teachers. My craft instructors were great mentors as well. The best part is that everyone wants you to succeed.
Through volunteering, I got involved with the Apprentice School Student Association (ASSA). The ASSA is for the students and by the students. We try to do everything to make it feel like a four-year college. I’m currently the association president for 2023, and we have four advisers who provide insight and mentoring and strive to build up our organization. We are always looking for new ideas, events and volunteer opportunities. Anytime we want to try something new, our advisers do everything they can to help us make that happen.
In 2020, I was accepted into the Marine Design program at The Apprentice School. I rotated through design departments, while completing my associate degree in mechanical engineering. This year, I was accepted into the Marine Engineering program, working on completing my bachelor’s degree, just like my high school friend who graduated from ODU and The Apprentice School in 2019.