PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - Ten high school seniors from across Jackson County in the Ingalls Shipbuilder Academy are now preparing for a career at the Pascagoula shipyard.
This pathway includes highly specialized career types such as welders, riggers, painters, sheet metal workers, and pipefitters.
The Shipbuilder Career Tech Program is a partnership among Ingalls Shipbuilding, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Jackson County Technology Center, Pascagoula-Gautier School District, Ocean Springs School District, Alma Bryant High School and Moss Point High School.
Four of the 10 seniors, including Keonta Steward, are from Pascagoula High.
“A lot of people don’t have opportunities like we do. So all I can say is we need to take the best advantage that we got,” said Steward. “If we shine up in the program, everybody behind us. They’ll be like, okay well these Pascagoula students did amazing. I want more Pascagoula students. So it can open up more job opportunities for people behind us.”
Steward and the other students from Pascagoula took classes at the district’s College and Career Technical Institute, learning about engineering and welding.
Like so many at the shipyard, Stewart and his friend Karon Leverette are following in the footsteps of their family by working at Ingalls.
“My dad did work there for 13 years, my grandma worked there for 25, plus my granddad,” said Leverette. “They were really proud of me and then it was even cooler because my instructor - who is my granddad - was the one who taught my instructor.”
Career Academy Specialist and CTE counselor Derek Read is familiar with the careers Ingalls offers. Read says he worked at Ingalls before making a career change to education.
“Theses students can graduate high school, start off making $16-$17 an hour,” said Read. “They get a raise every three months. After 18 months of the program, they’re upwards of $26-27 an hour.”
In addition to competitive pay, employees at Ingalls also have full benefits, including a company-matched 401K program and health, dental and vision benefits.
It’s a life-changing career that Pascagoula High senior Christian Hall says he will capitalize on.
“It’s a great opportunity to be able to jump in and do that,” said Hall. “I’m just honored I get to have it.”
All 10 students have been offered jobs at the shipyard and will begin working there in June after graduating in May 2021.