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NEWS | Aug. 31, 2021

PNS Celebrates Apprentice Graduation

By PNS Public Affairs Office Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard held an outdoor drive-in style graduation ceremony Friday for the Production Trades Apprentice and Worker Skills Progression Program (WSPP) Class of 2021.

Commanding Officer, USS Texas (SSN 775), Cmdr. Kenneth Cooke served as the keynote speaker. Cooke congratulated the graduates as he reminded them of their critical role in support of the Navy and the Nation.

“We are in a time of great power competition [and] we need the submarine fleet to project power across the oceans, from the Pacific to the Northern Atlantic to the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf - 100 percent on watch … you can ensure that’s possible,” said Cooke. “It is vital to our nation that we aggressively build new shipyard capacity and capability, and today, through this graduation ceremony, through all that you’ve accomplished over the last few years to get yourself here today, we are doing exactly that.”

The shipyard Chapter of the National Association of Superintendents hosted the event. The class of 260 graduates – 88 from the Trades Apprenticeship and 172 from the WSPP – represent 24 different trades. These programs provide the skills and capability needed to execute mission requirements and are a critical component of the shipyard workforce. Currently, there are more than 1,000 participants in the shipyard’s apprenticeship programs.  

“Your teamwork, customer-focused work ethic, and inspiring adherence to our Command Principles of Ownership, People, Truth, Customer, and Lean-in approach is what allows us to reach our North Star in submarine maintenance,” said Shipyard Commander, Capt. Daniel Ettlich in his message to the graduates. “With your hard work and sense of urgency, we can navigate our way to continued success well into the future.”

The four-year Trades Apprenticeship consists of academic courses administered jointly by Great Bay Community College - Pease and York County Community College and trade-related courses conducted by the PNS training department. On-the-job training is accomplished under the mentorship of highly experienced production trades workers. The combined academic and 

hands-on training enables participants to become journey-level workers with a greater understanding of their craft. The WSPP is a three to five-year apprenticeship where previous work experience and technical trade training are combined with on-the-job training to advance participants to the trade mechanic level.

“To the families who have supported today’s graduates throughout the program, you are also to be commended,” said Ettlich. “I want to personally thank you for supporting your apprentice in their invaluable role in serving our Navy.”

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is currently accepting applications for the next apprenticeship class which will begin in 2022. Interested candidates must submit resumes and academic pre-placement scores by Sept. 20, 2021 via email to PNS-TRADES-HIRE.FCT@NAVY.MIL. Pre-employment testing can be coordinated through either Great Bay Community College ( or York County Community College (

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is the Navy’s center of excellence for attack submarine overhaul, repair, and modernization. As a NAVSEA field activity, PNS is committed to maximizing the material readiness of the fleet by safely delivering first-time quality work, on time, and on budget.