Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) hosted Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton Wednesday for a tour of The Apprentice School at the company's Newport News Shipbuilding division.
Danny Hunley, Newport News' vice president of operations, and Everett Jordan, The Apprentice School's education director, led the tour of the 90,000-square-foot facility, which includes eight computer labs, two video teleconferencing classrooms, a physics lab and a 600-seat gymnasium. Holton was also joined by Virginia Deputy Secretary of Education Dietra Trent, Virginia Director of STEM Megan Healy and two summer interns working in Holton's office.
During the tour, Holton visited several classrooms to receive feedback from apprentices. She asked a group of second-term apprentices studying geometry if they were able to relate their classroom learning to their individual jobs. "I'm amazed at how many heads are nodding," Holton said. "You aren't just learning this in abstract but in a way that matters."
The Apprentice School offers four- to eight-year, tuition-free apprenticeships in 19 trades and eight optional advanced programs. Apprentices work a regular 40-hour week and are paid for all work, including time spent in academic classes. Through partnerships with Old Dominion University, Thomas Nelson Community College and Tidewater Community College, the 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.
"I'm so excited to see the phenomenal work going on at The Apprentice School and the level of commitment shown to the employees and this community," Holton said. "We hope to take these lessons learned to our employers and our constituents across the Commonwealth."
The secret to The Apprentice School's success is collaboration, Hunley said. "As a society, we tend to educate and then hand-off students to an employer," he said. "It's important that educators and employers work together."
Hunley added that the new facility, which opened last fall, would not exist if it weren't for similar collaboration. The shipyard partnered with developer Armada Hoffler, the City of Newport News and the Commonwealth of Virginia on the project.
When asked by Holton how the state could assist in the school's success, Hunley said it already has. "Please go back to Richmond," he said, "and tell the folks who had the insight and the courage to provide the seed money for this project that it worked and it was money well spent."