Twenty-year-old Demarcus Woods is no stranger to hard work. For a few years he worked two jobs and attended night classes for computer engineering at a local community college. His goal was to pay for his college courses out of pocket to avoid taking on student debt. When his father found out about an opportunity to be paid to receive training for an occupation, he knew he couldn’t pass up the chance to apply.
Demarcus applied and was accepted to the Apprentice School, a four-year apprenticeship vocational school funded and operated by Newport News Shipbuilding. The admissions process is competitive – of the 4,000 applicants, only 220 or so are admitted each year – which is among the most selective in the nation.
Successful candidates are offered both employment at Newport News Shipbuilding and enrollment to The Apprentice School. Apprenticeships are offered in 19 shipbuilding disciplines. Demarcus was accepted to learn the sheet metal trade. The median salary of a sheet metal worker is $48,460 a year. Applicants can list their preference on the application but are ultimately placed in a program based on the need for certain occupations.
The curriculum also gives students the opportunity to earn an associate’s degree from Thomas Nelson Community College or Tidewater Community College at no cost to them.
As a student and full-time employee of Newport News Shipbuilding, Demarcus is not only earning significantly more than he previously did, but is getting much more of something else he was missing. Demarcus notes, “My life is much simpler now. There are a lot of rules and regulations I have to be mindful of, but I get much more sleep, so I’m cool with that.”
Demarcus is grateful to his father for encouraging him to apply. While in high school, he does not remember receiving information about technical education or skilled careers. He shares, “I never saw anything wrong with the trades. I grew up seeing people work hard.” He shares he likely would’ve pursued the opportunity earlier in life had he known about it.
Despite learning about the Apprentice School later than he would’ve liked, Demarcus will still be well on his way to promising career by the time he graduates at the age of 24. Following graduation, he plans to continue to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering and is confident he will be able to pay for it with the salary he will be making.