Photo Release -- Huntington Ingalls Industries Celebrates 154 Graduates of The Apprentice School at Newport News Shipbuilding in Drive-in Theater-style Ceremony

Photo Release -- Huntington Ingalls Industries Celebrates 154 Graduates of The Apprentice School at Newport News Shipbuilding in Drive-in Theater-style Ceremony
Newport News Shipbuilding
Jennifer Boykin Addresses Class of 2020
Newport News Shipbuilding President Jennifer Boykin addresses The Apprentice School’s Class of 2020 during graduation exercises at the Hampton Roads Convention Center, April 17, 2021. Also pictured, seated from left, are Latitia McCane, Howard Hoege III and Xavier Beale. Photo by Ashley Cowan/HII

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (April 17, 2021) -- Huntington Ingalls Industries (NYSE:HII) hosted commencement exercises on Saturday for 154 graduates of the company’s Apprentice School at Newport News Shipbuilding. Due to the COVID-19 environment, and in an effort to keep all employees, staff, graduates and their guests safe, the ceremony was held outdoors at the Hampton Roads Convention Center in Hampton.

“A drive-in movie-style graduation is likely not what you expected, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that the past year in many ways isn’t what any of us expected,” said Jennifer Boykin, president of Newport News Shipbuilding.

“Graduating from The Apprentice School is not an easy feat and when you couple the long hours balancing your work and your studies, along with new obstacles you faced this year, like remote learning and working with your entire family in the same area, it makes this accomplishment even more extraordinary,” Boykin told the graduates. “The lessons you’ve learned during the past year have molded you in a way unlike any other apprenticeship experience. The past 12 months, with all its twists and turns it’s brought, have helped train you for challenges yet to come. It is your ability to adapt and your innovative spirit that will help Newport News Shipbuilding continue to thrive, and it’s that spirit that will help our United States Navy be the absolute best it can be.”

Apprentice School Graduation
About 154 graduates of The Apprentice School at Newport News Shipbuilding were honored during graduation exercises on April 17, 2021. Due to COVID 19, the ceremony was held outdoors at the Hampton Roads Convention Center to ensure the safety of all graduates and guests, as well as event staff. Photo by Ashley Cowan/HII

The commencement address was delivered by Howard Hoege III, president of The Mariners' Museum and Park, in Newport News, who shared a message on leadership.

“You’re graduating from a leadership program that puts your leadership development on par with the development of your technical competency,” Hoege said. “Fully commit to being the best leader you can be. Fully commit to being the best servant leader that you can be, and I promise you your decision to go all in for your people will have an impact beyond what you can predict or imagine today. That’s true for the teams where you serve as leaders and it’s true for the impact you’ll have on every single individual that you have the honor of leading.”

Mark Byerly received the Homer L. Ferguson Award, which recognizes the apprentice graduating with the highest honors. A nuclear test technician at the Kenneth A. Kesselring Site in Ballston Spa, New York, Byerly completed his associate degree in electrical engineering at Tidewater Community College in December 2020. He continues to work towards a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering technology and a minor in mechanical engineering technology from Old Dominion University.

In his pre-recorded remarks to graduates, Byerly discussed his many setbacks, his joining the U.S. Marines and his first job at the shipyard working as an electrician on the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).

“The one thing I’ve found, the one thing I continue to see is that we will all fail at some point — it’s how you get back up and keep fighting that makes the difference,” said Byerly, 32, a husband and father of three children. “Whether you choose to let your failures define your life, or you use them to shape and mold you, to power through them and allow them to build you into maybe not who you wanted to be, or where you saw yourself being, but to where you are meant to be in life. Failure is inherent to life. But what’s not inherent, and what takes real courage, and real strength, is standing back up after you’ve been knocked down and pressing on.”

Replay coverage of the ceremony will be available on

The following is a profile of the graduating class:

  • 69 completed an optional, advanced program, earning an associate or bachelor’s degree. The program includes coursework in subjects such as marine design, production planning, modeling and simulation, and marine engineering. (11 bachelor’s degrees, 58 associate degrees)
  • 83 earned honors, a combination of academic and craft grades that determine overall performance.
  • 69 completed the Advanced Shipyard Operations Program, allowing them to continue their postsecondary education, expand their experience in waterfront operations and develop leadership skills to improve the quality and efficiency of production, manufacturing and maintenance processes.
  • 21 completed Frontline FAST, an accelerated skills training program for potential foremen.
  • 14 inducted into The National Society of Leadership Success.
  • 16 completed the World Class Shipbuilder Curriculum and advance optional program with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
  • 10 are military veterans or are currently serving in the armed services as reservists and guardsmen, representing every branch of the military.
  • 16 earned athletic awards.

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 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 42,000 people operating both domestically and internationally. For more information, visit:

Danny Hernandez
Director of Public Affairs
(202) 580-9086