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NEWS | Oct. 19, 2020

PHNSY & IMF Apprentice Program Celebrates Its Centennial Anniversary

By Beverly Higa, Apprentice Program Administrator

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii – This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PHNSY & IMF) apprentice program, which began in 1920 when Leonard H. Dexter and Fred C. Douse were hired as machinist apprentices. At that time, the shipyard hired and trained local talent to become the skilled workforce required to maintain the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet. This tradition has proudly continued for the past century.

As of 2020, more than 5,800 men and women have graduated from PHNSY & IMF’s apprentice program. While little is known about the early years of the program, records show trades skills taught included training for blacksmiths, coppersmiths, sailmakers, and woodcrafters. One historical record included a list of apprentice graduate names from 1924 through 1985, 1993 through 1995, and 2001 through the present. (Note: If you graduated from the program between 1985-1992, please contact the shipyard’s apprentice program staff to add your name to the list of graduates.)

The apprentice program has not always found a home in Building 2. In the 1980s, the program was located at the old Marine Barracks near Quick Field. Current apprentice instructors who were apprentices in the 1980s recall how the school was located on the second floor of the barracks and a bar named The Green Door was located on the first floor. It soon became evident that the apprentice program needed its own dedicated space. This need led to the construction of Building 2 and its designation as the new home of the apprentice program.

Long-time shipyard workers also recounted that most public shipyard apprenticeship programs in the United States were shut down in the mid-1990s. By 1999, shipyard leaders recognized an influx of younger workers were needed to revitalize the workforce and carry on the shipyard’s trades skills. Shipyard leaders and Congressional members from Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Virginia and Washington state worked together to secure federal funding required to revitalize apprentice programs at the four public naval shipyards.

In the early 2000s, the following statement became standard in the U.S. Senate’s annual Department of Defense (DOD) Appropriations Bill: “Naval Shipyard Apprentice Program – The Committee directs that during fiscal year 200X, the Navy shall induct classes of no fewer than 100 apprentices, respectively, at each of the naval shipyards. The committee further directs the Navy to include the costs of the fiscal year 200X class of apprentices in its budget request.”

Without action from shipyard leaders and Congressional members, the shipyard would not have this vital program today. U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye and U.S. Representative Daniel K. Akaka helped ensure this provision was included in the DOD Appropriations Bill each year. In addition up until his death, Senator Inouye remained a strong supporter of PHNSY & IMF. He was a frequent shipyard visitor and often a keynote speaker at the apprentice program graduations.

In addition to its long legacy, the Apprentice Program remains a prime example of a successful federal and community partnership. The partnership between PHNSY & IMF, U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), and Honolulu Community College (HCC) allow the 4-year program to provide apprentices with an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in Applied Trades from HCC, a national DOL certification as a journey worker in their chosen trades, and a full-time shipyard job learning how to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet “Fit to Fight.” PHNSY & IMF has been and will continue to be a strategic asset, national treasure, and invaluable training ground for all who desire to be a part of this proud and historic tradition.


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