The Apprentice School at Newport News Shipbuilding now offers academic degrees, helping to combat a shortage of skilled workers at shipyards by offering more trade opportunities. Photo: Huntington Ingalls Industries.

Newport News Shipbuilding Apprenticeship Now Offers Academic Degrees

Apprentices at Newport News Shipbuilding’s nationally-renowned Apprentice School will now be able to earn academic degrees while they practice their trade in the workforce.

Huntington Ingalls Industries announced that the school is officially approved as an Institution of Higher Education in Virginia, giving it the authority to grant academic degrees. Apprentices will be able to earn an associate of applied science degree in maritime technology in 26 disciplines like maintenance electrician, marine designer, nuclear test technician and modeling and simulation program analyst.

The Apprentice School offers four- to eight-year, tuition-free apprenticeships in 19 trades and nine optional advanced programs. Apprentices work a 40-hour week and are paid for all work, including time spent in academic classes.

Previously, the Apprentice School partnered with other higher education institutions to offer apprentices the chance to earn degrees. Now the school can grant and confer degrees of its own.

Xavier Beale, Newport News Shipbuilding’s vice president of trades, calls the approval an historic milestone:

“Our ability to offer academic degrees deepens our commitment to workforce development and will open new opportunities for our company to help to meet the ever-growing demand for skilled workers in our region.”

The shipbuilding industry, like many sectors that rely on skilled trades, has seen a shortage of workers because of an aging skilled workforce and challenges in convincing young Americans that there are well-paying, essential jobs at shipyards.

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the Navy is unable to complete scheduled ship maintenance about 75 percent of the time, leading to over 33,000 days of delayed maintenance– due in part to lack of skilled workers.

That problem makes programs like those The Apprentice School offers essential to sustaining the industry.

Final approval of the degree programs by the Council of Occupational Education is expected to be made later this year. For more information, visit

-Meg Walburn Viviano