Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) hosts the graduation ceremony for the company's Apprentice School at Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS).
The graduation, held at Liberty Baptist Church Worship Center in Hampton, celebrated the achievements of 206 apprentices representing 21 trades.
Retired Navy Adm. Tim Keating served as the commencement speaker and shared some of his personal experiences with NNS-built aircraft carriers and submarines and their impact on national security. "Think of the difference you have made over decades of good, honest hard work," he said to the graduates. He later went on to tell the newest generation of shipbuilders, "You are our secret weapon. No one else has you guys."
Fifty-six apprentices completed an optional, advanced program (advanced shipyard operations, cost estimator, modeling and simulation program analyst, nuclear test technician or production planner). Forty-seven apprentices earned honors, and 13 apprentices earned high honors under the new honors program that combines academic and craft grades to determine overall performance. Athletic awards were presented to 22 apprentices, and 10 apprentices completed their required academics with perfect 4.0 grade point averages.
Micah Terrell Meeks received the Homer L. Ferguson Award for earning the highest grade point average in combined required academics and crafts. He, too, reflected on the importance of shipbuilding. "As Newport News shipbuilders, we do hard things right," Meeks said. "This isn't a slogan to us; this is our way of life. It's also a debt we all owe for living in this great country, for choosing to work in a profession that provides our nation's Navy with the tools they need to protect our homes, our family and our way of life."
More than 100 faculty and staff teach 25 different programs and more than 75 course offerings at The Apprentice School, which provides high-quality, comprehensive four- and five-year programs for students interested in shipbuilding careers. Since 1919, the programs have produced more than 9,800 graduates in support of the operational needs of the company. An apprenticeship is a formal training program that allows students to receive instruction and experience—both theoretical and practical—in the various aspects of a skilled trade.