BREMERTON, Wash. –
Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility’s Apprentice School graduated 206 students Sept. 17 during an outdoor ceremony held on Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton. It is the second year that students have received their graduation materials via a drive-through tunnel constructed by PSNS & IMF’s temporary services department, a decision that aligns with the shipyard’s COVID-19 protective measures.
The class of 2021 embodies excellence in technical skills and academics. Students in this class represent 25 unique trades and maintained an overall class GPA of 3.8. Upon graduating, apprentices received their certificates as journey-level mechanics in their respective trades, as well as an associate’s degree in technical arts from Olympic College. Graduation packets also included an invitation to enjoy a virtual commencement ceremony, featuring a video address from Capt. Jip Mosman, commander, PSNS &IMF.
“As you begin to think about your future here at the shipyard, know that your fresh perspective is one of the most valuable assets you have,” said Mosman. “We will look to you to imagine new and innovative ways to make our shipyard better. We will look to you to expand your skills and apply your expertise to overcome new challenges and answer tough questions.”
The graduation ceremony was also an opportunity to celebrate the program’s 120th anniversary. In 1901, when Navy Yard Puget Sound was only 10 years old, it became clear that skilled workers could be drawn from the local community. The Shipyard Labor Board chose six young men to qualify as apprentices. Requirements to become an apprentice were vastly different from what they are today. An applicant need only be 15 years old, have a fourth-grade education and present five personal references. In the program’s infancy, production was the primary objective and an apprenticeship required no formal schooling.
“The esteem the Apprentice Program enjoys is 120 years in the making,” said Reuben Farley, Apprentice Program director. “The Apprentice Program at PSNS & IMF has therefore become, and will remain, one of the finest examples of industrial training in the country.”
The modern Apprentice Program requires a rigorous application process and aims to constantly maintain highly technical, state-of-the-art equipment and systems to train apprentices on emerging technologies. The curriculum has evolved over the past 120 years, but the program goals and outcomes remain the same. The Apprentice Program’s mission is to produce journey-level workers with the skills and educational foundation to meet the command’s needs and compete for future supervisory and leadership positions. As a by-product of the program, the command’s trade leadership primarily comes from Apprentice Program alumni. The shipyard currently employees 879 apprentices among more than 14,000 shipyard employees.
Class speaker, and for former U.S. Marine, Edgar Ramirez, a Shop 26 welder, shared his thoughts with the graduating class.
“Congratulations class of 2021, we have finally made it and what an eventful ride it has been,” said Ramirez. “Through personal hardships, growing families and major world events, we have persevered to become the next generation of journey-level mechanics. If it’s true that good things don’t come easy, then I have high expectations for our continued success in our careers.”
As an immigrant, Ramirez also said he is happy to be a part of culturally diverse workforce at the shipyard and for the opportunity continue to serve his country as a Navy civilian.
In addition to the class speaker, four other graduates received honors for their achievements.
Cameron Forcier, a Shop 26 welder, was named the Apprentice of the Year by the program’s administration.
Chad Markham, a Shop 99E temporary services electrician, received the Scholastic Award from the Federal Manager’s Association with a 3.996 GPA, the highest grade in his program.
Randy Fuller, a Shop 38 marine machinery mechanic, received the Apprentice Craftsman Award from the Assistant Production Superintendent’s Association.
Madison Eckley, a Shop 64 fabric worker, received the Leadership Award from the National Association of Superintendents.
The success of the PSNS & IMF Apprentice Program is the product of cooperative efforts by production superintendents, supervisors, Olympic College and Apprentice School instructors, and the Apprentice Program administrator. This coalition has always been the essential key to furthering the quality of apprenticeships. With strong congressional support and the involvement of the City of Bremerton’s academic community, the Apprentice Program has been granted instructional excellence and the opportunity to constantly improve.