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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Graduates of ODU Engineering/Apprentice School Program Honored

By Brendan O'Hallarn

For three years, five shipbuilders in training have juggled engineering school with their full-time marine engineer apprenticeships under an innovative partnership launched in 2013 by Old Dominion University and Newport News Shipbuilding's Apprentice School.

The five engineering apprentices graduated from Old Dominion with bachelor's degrees in mechanical engineering or electrical engineering on May 6. They will move into full-time positions with Newport News Shipbuilding - Huntington Ingalls Industries (NNS HII) after they complete their apprenticeships later this year.

The graduates were honored at a special ceremony May 16 at Old Dominion University's Tri-Cities Center in Portsmouth.

"What these graduates have accomplished is truly remarkable," Renee Olander, Old Dominion's associate vice president for regional higher education centers, told the gathering.

The program was created after years of hard work by officials from Old Dominion's Batten College of Engineering and Technology, Tidewater Community College and The Apprentice School, Olander said. "We sat around tables for several years before we launched our first cohort."

With two cohorts of graduates and nearly 40 students still in the program, the shipyard is delighted with the partnership, said Vince Warren, manager of craft training at The Apprentice School.

"It's the epitome of what a true apprenticeship should be," said Warren, himself a 2005 graduate of what is now Old Dominion's STEM Education and Professional Studies program.

Students in The Apprentice School participate in an innovative partnership with Old Dominion. The program has garnered national attention for its fusion of work experiences at The Apprentice School with rigorous academic courses provided by the University's engineering program.

In a typical week, apprentices work full time three days and attend classes the other two days.

DeAnna Leary, one of the five students in the class of 2017, can attest to the challenge of simultaneously pursuing a degree and an apprenticeship.

"It's about time management and working hard," said Leary, who is from Chesapeake. "I don't regret it for a second, but it wasn't easy." Leary will work as a propulsion plant engineer at NNS HII when she completes her internship.

The University and Newport News Shipbuilding have ties dating to the 1960s. The shipbuilder employs more than 1,000 ODU grads, more than from any other school.

Founded in 1919, The Apprentice School admits about 250 current and prospective employees annually and offers four- to eight-year tuition-free apprenticeships.

Apprentices work a regular 40-hour week and are paid for all work, including time spent in academic classes.

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