Regina McLean of Hampton, Virginia, has never been one to stand down from a challenge, including a bold move into a nontraditional career opportunity.
At 32, Regina had been working at a child care center in Newport News. While out shopping one afternoon, she came across Newport News Shipbuilding. Curious to learn more about the company, Regina stopped in.
She learned that the company was seeking job candidates for work building aircraft carriers and submarines. Although she had no prior experience in manufacturing, she was intrigued by the opportunity and filled out an application.
Regina was hired as a machinist two weeks later, and received training on how to weld and run blades and saws. Her supervisors saw her potential and encouraged her to pursue the company’s machinist apprenticeship program after a few months on the job.
Eager to learn more, she took their advice and was accepted into the four-year program in 2002. She spent two days in the classroom and three days in the field per week, and was paid for all of her time.
Her skills and motivation stood out: Regina was selected to work with an experienced foreman at a company outside of the shipbuilding school, while most other apprentices worked directly under the supervision of a school craft instructor.
“I worked for supervisors with a lot of experience who made sure I learned everything about the job and fully understood what I was doing,” Regina said, “They allowed me to gain supervisory experience, and learn about relevant regulations and processes.”
When Regina graduated in 2006, she received the Niels Christiansen Award for her excellent work and having the highest grade in her trade.
Regina later became a craft instructor at Newport News Shipbuilding’s apprenticeship school, teaching students about leadership, machinist theory, and onboard machine shop installation and testing. Since finishing the apprenticeship, she has earned a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees, and is currently employed in a management position with the company.
“Pursuing an apprenticeship was the best decision I have ever made,” she said. “It afforded me a lot of opportunities and built confidence in me I would not have had otherwise.”
Find an apprenticeship program or learn how to sponsor one at www.dol.gov/apprenticeship.
Editor’s note: Regina’s story is one example of an effective workforce program in action. View more success stories here.
Briar Gibbons is an intern with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Public Affairs in Philadelphia.