Ingalls Shipbuilding, Huntington-Ingalls Industries
Ingalls Shipbuilding, Mississippi’s chief manufacturing employer, spans more than 800 acres of coastal land in Pascagoula. For more than half a century, Ingalls has offered Registered Apprenticeships, and currently, the company has 800 apprentices enrolled in one of its 15 shipyard-training programs, which include welding, sheet metal work, carpentry, and electrical training.
Many of Ingalls’ projects–work that includes manufacturing vessels for the United States Navy and Coast Guard–take years to complete and require hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of hands, throughout the manufacturing process to ensure the ships meet the federal government’s rigorous safety and quality standards.
Garry Mercer, manager of workforce development and apprenticeship at Ingalls, says the company receives about seven thousand applications for apprentices yearly. Of the more than 1,600 total apprenticeship program graduates, about half have stayed on at Ingalls, some of whom have worked their way into management and professional development.
Ingalls apprentices begin as an employee from day one, earning a living wage and full benefits. Through participation in 12 weeks of training and weekly technical instruction classes, apprentices earn college credits toward an associate degree in Maritime Technology. Ingalls partnered with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College to offer the degree program in 2014, and over the past few years, other colleges in the area have added similar college credit options for apprentices.
Mercer emphasized the importance of investing in the future of Mississippi through programs like Registered Apprenticeship. Often, young people leave the state to find better jobs, but he says with Ingalls, there is room to grow and build a good life right here in the Mississippi.
“We go the extra mile on our apprenticeships because we believe that’s the future of our company,” says Mercer. “We know from history that those [Registered Apprenticeship] graduates are going to stay with us and build a career. That’s what we want. We want people to stay in Mississippi long term and have great careers.”