Ingalls Shipbuilding Apprentice Graduation Speech

By Brian Cuccias, president, Ingalls Shipbuilding. (Speech as prepared)

Brian Cuccias at Ingalls Apprentice Graduation
Ingalls Shipbuilding President Brian Cuccias addresses the Class of 2017 graduates of the Ingalls Apprentice School on Aug. 26, 2017. Photo by Lance Davis/HII

Welcome graduates!   Family members and friends, Admiral Galinis, fellow shipbuilders, ladies and gentlemen – welcome and good morning.

What a great day this is for your future ----- and for Ingalls Shipbuilding!

We’re here to celebrate your successful completion of the company’s apprenticeship program – I am honored to say it is one of the country’s best! We are very proud of what you have accomplished. You are now in a unique class with a fantastic opportunity for a great shipbuilding career.

When you started this program years ago, you had an opportunity that many wished they had. Let me put that in perspective.

On average, Ingalls receives 6,000 applicants each year for approximately 200 slots. That’s about three  apprentices for every 100 that try to get into the program.
When we accepted you into this program, we believed you had the right stuff, we believed in your potential. Your being here today proves us all right. 

You are each a vital member of the Ingalls Shipbuilding team that builds the most complex warships the world has ever known. Did you know that almost 70 percent of the Navy’s current surface warship fleet was built by Ingalls?

You are truly part of a rich legacy and an elite shipbuilding team. Building four complex classes of ships for our Nation’s defense – for the Navy, Marines, Coast Guard…with ten ships currently under construction, No other shipyard in this country has this capability.

When you applied for this program, you were choosing to start down a path to becoming an Ingalls leader. As graduate apprentices your bright future is full of tremendous opportunities… in shipbuilding, and in life. Graduates of this program have tremendous opportunities for advancement in the company. There are already more than 1,600 graduates in our workforce…almost 850 of whom have advanced into management and professional roles.  Including George Jones who was the apprentice of the year in 1986 – and now Vice President of Production.

But - I believe that it all starts with making the right decisions…like the one you made to enter this program. You took the initiative to enter the program, you showed perseverance to stay in the program and you showed determination to successfully graduate – what a great start in your shipbuilding career.  People who are successful make the decision to arrive at work on time, to work safely, to be ethical and do the right thing…and to work with excellence in all they do.

So, as you go to work next week as an Apprentice Graduate, I would like to give you a challenge: Choose to make a difference! You have already chosen to start down the path to be an Ingalls leader. You’ve already set an example. You made the choice to enter the Apprentice School. And, more importantly, you made the decision to finish and graduate.

I’m sure that there were times when it was hard – but you made the right decision to push through – so you’re already starting to make a difference. In life --- and certainly in work --- not everything will always go as planned…nor will it always be easy.

If you see someone working unsafely, acting unethically, doing the wrong thing; I know you will speak up and stop them. Lead by example and show them the right way - make a difference.  When someone needs help, encouragement, or guidance – help those who are not as well trained, who have just started, or perhaps a co-worker “MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION!”

When you are faced with a difficult situation, when things are not always as planned, be the leader I know you can be and always do the right thing for yourself and others who will be watching.

I believe your success has more to do with how you respond when things don’t go well, when there is a disappointment or even failure, than how you respond when there is a success. Anyone can make the right decision when it’s easy. Real leaders make the right decision when it’s hard and no one is looking. I challenge you to take the responsibility as a leader head on. Choose to make a difference, and be an example for others.

As I look out across this room, I am encouraged by what our future holds. I couldn’t be more proud of each and every one of you. Don’t lose the momentum. Because YOU are the future of Ingalls Shipbuilding and what you do today… and every day… really does matter.

Congratulations…and thank you.

Contact information

Huntington Ingalls Industries

About Huntington Ingalls

Huntington Ingalls Industries is America’s largest military shipbuilding company and a provider of professional services to partners in government and industry. 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. HII’s Technical Solutions division supports national security missions around the globe with unmanned systems, defense and federal solutions, and nuclear and environmental services. Headquartered in Newport News, Virginia, HII employs more than 41,000 people operating both domestically and internationally. For more information, visit:

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