Teachers try their hand at building ships at Northrop

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS   (WLOX) - "This is a washing tip here," an instructor told a group of teachers, as he pointed to a small device.

Welding is certainly not in their field of expertise.  But 44 teachers are donning hard hats, safety goggles, and work boots and they're getting a crash course on the shipbuilding industry.

"I was a little intimidated by the fire, but it's pretty exciting," said Bay St. Louis teacher Marietta Murray.

"It's a real challenge, but I guess I'm doing pretty good for a first timer," said Chad Majeske, a teacher from Pocatello, Idaho.

The educators are spending a week at Northrop Grumman, learning about every facet of the shipbuilding industry.  This is the ninth year that the Pascagoula shipyard has participated in the Industry Education Partnerships Program, hosted by Mississippi State University.

"Most teachers never have the opportunity to do construction type work, ship fit, electrical and all that.  And it's a good program they can take back to the classroom," said W.A. Howard, an Apprenticeship Coordinator for Northrop Grumman.

Some of the teachers have never had any experience in the field.

"When you're sitting in a classroom and you're teaching, you can't tell them how hot it is until you've been out here," said Peggy Webb, the program's Team Leader.

The main goal is to expose teachers to different careers and job skills. That way, they can better prepare students who don't plan on graduating from college and want to enter the working world.

"It's been the most awesome experience for me, because I have learned what students need to come to work.  The math skills and the people skills," said Starkville teacher Patty Newsom.

"It's hot.  It's very hot," said Bay St. Louis teacher Phyllis Skinner. "But it also gives me real appreciation of what these people do and how hard they work.  Not only that, but to see the career opportunities that our kids have and what Northrop Grumman offers for continuing their education.  It's a wonderful program."

This valuable hands-on training also gives the teachers a deeper appreciation for shipbuilders.

"All of them doing real good.  Some of them want applications," Howard said with a smile.

The teachers also toured the dry dock, a ship under construction, and Gulfport's composite manufacturing center.

The lessons at Northrop Grumman are part of a four week program.  The teachers also toured the Nissan Plant in Canton, the Red Hill Coal Mines in Ackerman, and the Tennessee Valley Authority in Chattanooga.

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