When it came to jobs, Elisha Wright “made a few stops” before settling on a career with Austal in Mobile.
The Dauphin Island resident and Florida native spent eight years in the United States Navy, but wanted to find a way to continue to serve her country.
“This gave me a chance to serve my country in a roundabout way,” she said. “It means a lot because I went from serving on ships to getting to build those ships.”
Wright was one of 30 people who participated in an all-veteran apprenticeship program at Austal — a program Gov. Kay Ivey visited on Wednesday morning.
Two days after Veterans’ Day, Ivey met with members of the apprenticeship group as well as some of the program’s instructors. In a speech underneath a newly christened vessel, Ivey praised Austal for its work with veterans through these kinds of programs.
“I’m so proud Austal pays attention to our veterans,” Ivey said. “Thank you for your service. Alabama has over 400,000 veterans, which means one out of every four of our residents have worn the uniform. I’m proud we have residents dedicated to service.”
Ivey also touted Austal for creating jobs in the state, noting that just under 4,000 employees come to work at the shipyard every day. She told Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle that the shipbuilder had been “a model for the state” in terms of jobs and workforce development.
“It’s all about creating jobs and you have not slowed down,” she added.
The four-year veteran apprenticeship program covers paid training and many of the graduates stay on to work for the shipbuilder. Even those who don’t still leave with a Department of Labor certificate and excellent training, Ryan Lee, Austal’s workforce development manager, said.
“It makes sense for an employer to recruit veterans,” Lee said. “They have a lot of the soft skills you’re looking for. Especially for a Naval shipbuilder, it’s a good fit.”
The current apprenticeship program started in May, and while those in it are paid from the beginning, once they graduate with the certificates, the ones who remain at Austal will make more than the median area income, according to Lee. While the pay rate always changes, he estimated that salaries at Austal run anywhere from $50,000 to $60,000 per year.
Whil this particular program was highlighted because of Veteran’s Day, Lee also noted that Austal has apprenticeship and training programs for non-veterans as well.
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