Newport News Shipbuilding apprentices can now earn a bachelor’s degree at ODU

Source: Daily Press
Author: Sarah J. Pawlowski
Date: April 23, 2014

Students seeking an apprenticeship with Newport News Shipbuilding can now also earn a bachelor's degree in electrical or mechanical engineering thanks to a new partnership with Old Dominion University.

The program formally kicked off Wednesday morning with the signing of a memorandum during a ceremony at the Apprentice School in downtown Newport News.

"Today marks another milestone in the 94-year legacy of the Apprentice School," Everett Jordan, the school's director of education said to about 50 attendees. "I can think of no better partner (than ODU)."

Students enrolled at the Apprentice School are full-time employees at Newport News Shipbuilding. During a four-to-eight-year program, depending on the trade, students receive academic instruction and on-the-job training for ship-building careers.

Newport News Shipbuilding is already the largest employer of students who have graduated from Old Dominion University's Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, ODU President John Broderick said.

Broderick said the new partnership breaks the mold of traditional education because it allows students to have a full-time job while earning their degrees.

"I think that is so essential in today's society," he said.

Students complete the six-year program free of debt, a potential value of up to $400,000, according to Danny Hunley, vice president of operations at Newport News Shipbuilding.

There is no retention agreement, which means that students are not required to commit to employment with Newport News Shipbuilding for a specific length of time.

There are about a dozen students already in the engineering apprenticeship program, with plans to enroll about 12 to 14 new students each fall. Currently, students complete their course work on ODU's campus in Norfolk, although officials said they would like to start holding classes for the program at the Apprentice School within the next year.

Mechanical engineering student Jarrod Griffith said he spends two days a week in Norfolk taking classes and three days working at Newport News Shipbuilding.

"We're (at ODU) eight hours a day, and get paid for eight hours of school," he said. "We're getting paid to be in … class, so you can't beat it," he said.

Griffith said he learned about the program when he was a student at the University of Delaware. He said he was bothered by the amount of student debt he would have after college, so when he read about Newport News Shipbuilding he was thrilled to learn more about the program.

"I figured that this was the best opportunity," he said.