Graduate Spotlight: Haley from Philly Shipyard, Inc.

Haley stands under the Aker Philadelphia Shipyard crane at the Philadelphia Navy Yard

Haley Arici graduated from Widener University with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. Haley had successfully completed a coveted internship with McKean Defense Group, was a member of the Society of Women Engineers, Vice President of the Physics and Astronomy Club, and even served as a youth mentor for Transportation You (TrYOU) through Women in Transportation (WTS.) Despite this impressive resume, Haley was justifiably nervous as she transitioned from college student to college graduate. But it was December 2019, so landing an entry-level job that aligned with her studies was about to get a whole lot trickier.


Simultaneously, the JPMorgan Chase Foundation awarded a $1.5 million investment to the University City District to expand the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative to North and South Philadelphia, in partnership with Temple University and Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC.) The newly minted partnership was eager to bring the proven cohort training model to Navy Yard employers, and despite the uncertainty that 2020 brought,  hired Adrian “A.J.” Adams to serve as the Program Manager. In August of 2021, the partnership announced a pilot program to connect job seekers to union Laborer roles with Philly Shipyard, Inc.


Haley’s mom saw the announcement on Facebook. “It was really hard for me to be able to get a job,” Haley shared. “We decided it would be a good idea for me to apply. I had been struggling and was applying to anything at that point, so I just kind of went for it. I took a chance and hoped it worked for me.” And it did. Haley was accepted into the inaugural Shipyard Laborer Program and began the three-week training on September 7, 2021. “I didn’t have a lot of confidence in myself to begin with, so it was nice to have someone be there and believe in me and support me through the process. There was a lot I didn’t know before the program. I learned OSHA, first-aid. I learned about what was expected in the workforce, because before this I didn’t really have much experience outside of seasonal jobs and co-ops. I learned a lot through that program.”


After interviewing with the Philly Shipyard, Inc. team for the Laborer position, her education and previous experience were noted, and she was invited for a second interview. “I was hired as a Laborer but became a Maintenance Administrative Assistant. Now I am a Detail Planner, so I’m kind of between the Engineering Department and the Production Department, making sure that everything runs smoothly with the schedule,” said Haley. “I didn’t expect it, I figured I could start as a Laborer and work my way up and here I am. I’m currently working on a couple of projects for the ships we’re building. Eventually, I’d like to be in the Engineering department, but right now I am really happy.”


In November 2023, the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative and PIDC’s Navy Yard celebrated connecting over 100 graduates to employment at the Navy Yard with an average starting wage of $21.70/hour.

Haley and WPSI Executive Director Cait Garozzo in September 2021.