Learning First Alliance Sees Potential of Apprenticeships Firsthand at Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School

Contact: Richard Long, Learning First Alliance
longr@learningfirst.org/ (703) 909-1854


Newport News, Va. (August 31, 2018) -- Members of the Learning First Alliance and colleagues from the business community visited Newport News’ Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School earlier this month to learn more about the school’s apprenticeship program and the potential of offering apprenticeships in a variety of fields to high school and college students and recent graduates. These on-the-job training opportunities can help them build skills and valuable job experiences to launch a high-growth, well-paid and stable career path.

The visit showed the participants—who represented teachers, school board members, school specialists, and the business community–the potential for partnerships between K-12 public schools and businesses. Not only do students get experience in real-life work environments, the business gets a better understanding of the public school system and their needs.

“This was a fascinating look at how technology and the global economy have transformed the jobs available at the shipyard,” said Richard M. Long, executive director of Learning First Alliance. “The jobs today require much higher-level skills and deeper understanding of technology, which is very different from the experiences of previous generations who attended The Apprentice School.”

The Apprentice School, founded in 1919, trains about 900 students each year to work in the manufacturing facility. Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) employs about 30,000 workers at the shipyard, and more than 40 percent of its upper management came from The Apprentice School.

“The students at The Apprentice School are getting an excellent education, plus invaluable work experience that will help them build a strong and successful career path,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, executive director and CEO of the National School Boards Association. “It’s important for public schools to understand the current needs of business entities and translate the academic skills they teach students for real-life work.”

While touring the facility, LFA members learned that not only are academic skills important, but students need soft skills to work in the shipyard. Specifically, the group discussed how the shipyard is composed of teams of workers who need to work together, communicate effectively (in person and virtually), and identify and solve problems. 

NNS also sends volunteer employees to local schools and career-technical education events, such as science fair judging, tutoring, mock interviewing, career talks, STEM expos, job shadowing and hands-on technology demonstrations. NNS works with educators by inviting school administrators 
to a Manufacturing Day event each year, as well as hiring 24 “Teacher Interns” every summer to come work at NNS for two weeks and learn about how the careers available to apprentices pertain to what they teach in the classroom.

"Apprenticeship models, such as the one we visited at Newport News Shipbuilding, can be a good way for public schools and companies to work together," said Donna Harris-Aikens, director of education policy and practice at the National Education Association.   

The Learning First Alliance regularly meets with representatives of the business community to find common ground and ways to work together to improve the educational experiences and outcomes for the more than 50 million students in public schools.



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NNS apprentice working on machine