PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Apprenticeship programs at U.S. Navy contractor Electric Boat are being revived so the company is ready to build the nation’s new ballistic-missile submarines.
Electric Boat projects it needs to hire about 14,000 people over the next 14 years or so to build new Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarines and continue building Virginia-class attack submarines. That would account for attrition and grow its workforce by about 3,500 people, to 18,000 employees.
The last apprentice class for shipyard workers graduated in 2007 and the last apprentice class for designers and engineers graduated in 2014, according to the company. The programs combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction.
They were in hiatus until the company stepped up its hiring. They formally relaunched this month, and classes start in January with 30 participants in each program.
“You can’t walk off the street and go to work at Electric Boat,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, a Connecticut Democrat. “You’re operating equipment where the demand for precision requires highly trained people.”
Electric Boat currently employs about 14,500 people at the Groton, Connecticut, headquarters, the Rhode Island manufacturing facility and satellite sites nationwide.
Connecticut Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy touted the programs as a way to upgrade the skills of the state’s workforce, promote well-paying jobs and strengthen the economy.
Electric Boat will use federal grants awarded to promote manufacturing and apprenticeship in Connecticut, including some targeted for manufacturing training in the region. The grants for it, and for other smaller defense and commercial manufacturers, total about $16 million, according to the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board.
The company also is investing and developing the curriculum.
“The rejuvenation of our apprentice programs represents a key part of our strategy as Electric Boat prepares for a long period of sustained growth,” Maura Dunn, Electric Boat’s vice president for human resources and administration, said in a statement.
Formal apprenticeship training began nearly 70 years ago at the company and more than 4,300 people have graduated. The programs are three- to four-years long.
Ken DelaCruz, president of the Metal Trades Council at Electric Boat, said the programs are the best way to pass on the skills and knowledge of current workers to incoming employees.
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