Sen. Tim Kaine
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., addresses the 170 graduates at The Apprentice School’s commencement exercises. Kaine is a founder and co-chair of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus and served as the ceremony’s keynote speaker. Photo by Chris Oxley/HII

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Feb. 22, 2016) -- Huntington Ingalls Industries (NYSE:HII) hosted commencement exercises on Saturday for 170 graduates of the company’s Apprentice School located at Newport News Shipbuilding. The exercises were held at the Liberty Baptist Church Worship Center in Hampton in celebration of the graduating class of 2015.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., delivered the keynote address. Discussing his work as founder and co-chair of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, Kaine explained that the caucus uses The Apprentice School as “the national model that others should emulate.”

He argued that The Apprentice School holds national significance for American manufacturing, CTE and national security. “The ships and subs that you build not only defend the United States, but they help us open commerce to the world,” he said. “They respond in times of humanitarian disaster; they’re a show of order and peace and presence and diplomacy wherever they go. And that is what you do every day when you walk through the gate.”

Newport News Shipbuilding President Matt Mulherin encouraged the graduates to take risks at the company. “I want you to have courage,” he said. “I want you to think outside the box, and I want you to challenge the way we’ve always done things at the shipyard. We need and want your diverse ideas and perspectives to set the course for the next 130 years.”

Of the 170 graduates, 17 are military veterans or reservists. Seventy-six completed an optional, advanced program (advanced shipyard operations, cost estimator, modeling and simulation program analyst, and nuclear test technician or production planner). Forty-seven apprentices earned “honors,” 11 earned “high honors,” and five earned “highest honors” under the school’s Honors Program, which combines academic and craft grades to determine overall performance. Athletic awards were presented to 21 graduates, and 14 achieved a perfect 4.0 grade point average in their required courses.

The recipient of the Homer L. Ferguson Award was Eric Bevis. The award is granted to the graduate with the highest grade point average in combined required academics and crafts. Bevis served in the U.S. Navy for 11 years before beginning his career as an electrician at Newport News. After four years with the company, Bevis entered The Apprentice School, where he completed an optional, advanced program in advanced shipyard operations and the Frontline Foreman Accelerated Skills Training (FAST) program.

Addressing his fellow graduates, Bevis highlighted the opportunities awaiting them.

“The Apprentice School has given all of us as graduates the opportunity to make a difference,” he said. “We are the leaders and the future of this company, and we have the opportunity to not just make Newport News Shipbuilding a place to work in Virginia, but the place to work in Virginia. This is a new era in the workplace where no longer are we managers, bookkeepers and facilitators. We are leaders, motivators and inspirers.”

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.

About Huntington Ingalls Industries

Huntington Ingalls Industries is America’s largest military shipbuilding company and a provider of manufacturing, engineering and management services to the nuclear energy, oil and gas markets. For more than a century, HII’s Newport News and Ingalls shipbuilding divisions in Virginia and Mississippi have built more ships in more ship classes than any other U.S. naval shipbuilder. Headquartered in Newport News, Virginia, HII employs nearly 36,000 people operating both domestically and internationally. For more information, visit: