Austal USA honored 15 graduates of the full-service shipyard’s four-year apprenticeship program Aug. 14 at a ceremony held in the new Office Complex Multi-Use Room, site of a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony that marked the official opening of three new buildings at Austal’s state-of-the-art shipbuilding operation in Mobile, Ala.

The graduates received their certificates of completion and designation as Department of Labor Class A Journeymen. The graduating class consisted of six electrical journeymen, four pipe fitting journeymen, and five fabrication journeymen.

Special recognition went to class valedictorian Bill Ray Stroup, Jr., who received the “Ross Latapie Award of Excellence.” This award is named in memory of Ross Latapie, a former apprentice who worked tirelessly to increase his knowledge of the electrician trade by completing extra classroom and laboratory assignments from his instructors. He currently holds the record for the highest Austal USA apprenticeship academic GPA of 4.0.

“This is a shining moment for these 15 graduates and their families. Austal USA is pleased with our ability to continually improve our workforce annually with the introduction of a new group of highly-trained production workers as a result of the success of this program,” says Brian Leathers, Austal USA interim president/chief financial officer, in a company press release.

Austal’s apprenticeship program is certified by the U.S. Department of Labor, Alabama Department of Post Secondary Education, and the Veteran's Administration. It is governed by the Department of Labor Standards of Apprenticeship for the respective trades of pipefitter, marine electrician, fabricator and fitout.

The Alabama Department of Post Secondary Education has approved the company’s four trade programs for the Veteran's Administration, meaning that all eligible veterans may now apply for and receive GI Bill benefits that were earned for military service, Austal says. The Department of Labor requires that each candidate complete a minimum of 576 hours of classroom time and an additional 8,000 hours of on-the-job-learning over the four-year period. For more information about Austal’s recruiting efforts, visit