Electric Boat Prepares To Fill 450 New Positions At Quonset For 10 Virginia-Class Attack Submarines
By Paul Edward Parker
May 2, 2014
NORTH KINGSTOWN — General Dynamics Electric Boat will hire to fill 450 new positions to meet the demands of a $17.6-billion Navy contract awarded this week to build 10 Virginia-class attack submarines, starting two a year for each of the next five years.
In an ideal world, the submarine builder would hire experienced welders, painters, electricians, shipfitters and pipefitters, according to Electric Boat president Jeffrey S. Geiger. But few Rhode Island workers are ready to start in those trades on day one.
“We recognize that we’re going to have a training component to do,” Geiger told The Providence Journal after a ceremony Friday celebrating the contract award at the company’s Quonset Point shipyard. “We hire people without previous experience. We have a lot of applicants, and they vary in their experience and background.”
The hiring, slated for this summer and fall, would raise the total number of jobs at the Quonset Point shipyard to 3,300.
In addition, the company will continue to hire to replace employees who retire. A significant portion of Electric Boat’s work force has worked there for decades, with some employees having 50 or even 55 years with the company.
At Friday’s celebration, the employee chosen for a ceremonial cake-cutting has 48 years with the company. Alfred Coletti, a human resources chief from Plainfield, Conn., first worked at the company’s shipyard in Groton, Conn., before starting at Quonset Point in November 1973, the year the Rhode Island shipyard opened.
Geiger said that experience in construction or in trades related to shipbuilding is always preferred, but added that the company is working with the Community College of Rhode Island and other job training programs to develop those skills in young workers before they come to Electric Boat.
The latest round of hiring is for the Virginia-class program, a group of 30 ships that will replace the aging Los Angeles-class attack submarines. But Electric Boat is also looking ahead to building replacements for the Ohio class of ballistic-missile submarines.
Attack submarines are designed to hunt and sink enemy subs and surface ships as well as perform reconnaissance and special-operations missions. Ballistic-missile submarines are meant to hide in the depths with an arsenal of nuclear missiles as a deterrent to another nation launching a nuclear attack on the United States.
If the company is awarded the contract to build the replacement for the Ohio class — which it is now designing under contract with the Navy — that could mean 3,000 or more additional jobs at Quonset Point.
Molly Donohue Magee, executive director Southeastern New England Defense Industry Association, hailed Electric Boat’s new contract on Friday in an interview with The Journal.
“We think it’s great that they got the contract,” Magee said. “They’re a huge force in the state, so it bodes well.”
Not only does the contract mean more work for the company’s employees and for its subcontractors and suppliers, but it’s also good news for the larger submarine community in Rhode Island, Magee said. The Navy’s commitment to submarines means more work for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center at Naval Station Newport, she said.
A research and development unit that works on submarine systems such as sonar and torpedo technology, NUWC farms out a lot of its work to subcontractors, many of whom are Rhode Island-based.
Of the 2,730 people the center reported employing as of January, 1,924 are from Rhode Island, 442 from Massachusetts and 200 from Connecticut. The center employs several hundred at smaller facilities in New York state, Florida and the Bahamas. Only 24 of its employees are uniformed military — 7 officers and 17 enlisted. The rest are civilians.
Additionally, the center hires contractors that employ more than 2,000 people.