PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Thousands of people wanting to train as shipbuilders are hoping the odds fall in their favor. Ingalls Shipbuilding has about 230 slots available in its apprenticeship program for next semester. The challenge is more than 6,000 people have applied, which officials said is the most ever in the company's history.
The sheet metal shop is one of several learning labs helping shipbuilding apprentices apply classroom concepts to the work they'll be doing at a job site. Ingalls officials said all these hands-on opportunities weren't available until moving into the spacious Maritime Training Academy building.
"What it does is it allows us to look at an individual and assure that they have the basic competencies that they'll be functional on the job right from the very beginning," said Garry Mercer, Ingalls Apprenticeship Manager. "It also ensures that they know how to use all the equipment safely."
Ingalls officials said shipbuilding is complex, with new advances being made every day.
"Shipbuilding is hard and sometimes what we do is not fully understood," said Brian Cuccias, Ingalls Shipbuilding President. "So let me give you a perspective. An LPD weighs 25,000 tons. It's 684 feet long. It generates enough electrical power to power 6,000 homes. So to keep up with the complexities of these ships, we've also had to expand the skills of shipbuilders. One of the primary ways we've done this is through our apprentice program."
After just one full semester inside the Maritime Training Academy, word about the advances in training has spread.
"I can tell you that this year we've taken in 6,150 applications for about 230 jobs, and that's more than double last year's numbers," said Mercer. "The demand for these apprenticeship jobs is the highest ever. Nowhere in our recorded history have we ever had so many applicants per job."
Ingalls officials said they understand why so many more people want to enroll.
"We're getting people from all across the country, from all walks of life. They want these jobs because they understand they're going to get educated and get a skilled trade. They can earn a decent living, a decent wage and have that to fall back on for the rest of their life," Mercer said.
The Ingalls apprenticeship program is a partnership with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. That means apprentices can also earn college credit as they go through the program.