Electric Boat Expects To Hire 600 Locally
By Julia Bergman
January 15. 2015
Groton —The president of Electric Boat said Thursday that the company “has a very robust future” in front of it.
Speaking at EB’s annual legislative breakfast held at the Mystic Marriott, Jeffrey Geiger said the company expects to hire about 600 people between its New London and Groton locations “to both replace attrition and further some buildup we have, particularly in our engineering and design area.”
In 2014, EB recorded nearly $5 billion in sales across its programs. EB’s workforce is currently at 12,800 companywide. In Connecticut, 4,300 people work in operations and support and 4,600 on the engineering and design side. There are 3,400 employees on the manufacturing side in Rhode Island, and 500 employees in other locations.
But EB’s continued success is contingent on congressional support and the ability to find a strong, trained workforce to fill the shoes of a large cohort of senior employees who are expected to retire over the next five years, Geiger said.
“We’re in a very good position today, and we have a tremendous opportunity ahead of us,” Geiger told an audience of business leaders and government officials.
“But realizing that opportunity, we recognize, isn’t going to just happen by itself ... so we have a strong focus on ensuring that we are prepared for the future, and that we are successful in bringing on talented people to be able to execute the significant work that’s ahead of us,” he said.
Geiger said EB thinks about its business in four segments, the largest being the construction of the Virginia-class attack submarines, which represents more than 60 percent of the sales and workload in the shipyard. The next biggest segment is the engineering and design work, which represents about one-third of the company’s workload. In the first half of last year, EB employees were busy working on maintenance and modernization projects. The fourth segment is small ship operations.
“So across those four lines we generate the jobs that we have,” Geiger said.
Last year, the company hired more than 1,600 people between its facilities in Rhode Island and Connecticut to replace people who retired or left for other reasons, and to support the increasing workload. Geiger said that the number of people hired was split about equally between the two facilities.
The core of EB’s submarine programs today is the Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine. Between the company and its partner Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, Geiger said, “we’ve delivered 11 of these submarines to the fleet.”
“They’ve been performing exceptionally. The Navy is very happy with them and hence wants to continue the evolution and development of this submarine,” he said. “In addition to the 11 submarines that have been delivered, we have 17 submarines in this class in our backlog today, over half of which are in some stage of construction.”
On the development side, the company has two large projects going on. The first is designing and developing an upgraded version of the Virginia-class submarine. The upgrades incorporate the Virginia Payload Module, which is a roughly 80-foot section with four large diameter payload tubes that will be inserted into the center of the ship to allow for additional strike capability.
“In 2014, we were funded to the tune of about $65 million for the continued design and development of this,” Geiger said. “We have over 200 engineers and designers working on it today and that will continue to ramp up through 2015.”
The second ongoing development project is the Ohio-class Replacement Program, which is the development of a new ballistic missile submarine that will replace the retiring Ohio-class vessels.
“That’s a very significant program both today for us on the development side of our business and longer term on the construction side,” Geiger said.
Already, almost 3,000 EB engineers and designers are working to develop “the technology, the design and the design tools that allow us to create this new submarine,” he said.
While EB has an experienced and skilled workforce, Geiger said, “it’s a pretty senior workforce.”
“We’re going to see a number of retirements over the next five years,” he said. “So it’s imperative that we successfully develop the means and the manner in which that vast knowledge that’s resident in all those people can be transferred to the new people.”
For at least the next six years, employment will be “pretty stable,” Geiger said. There will be a little bit of cyclical ups and downs “that are relatively minor and short term in nature,” he said, but overall employment will be pretty solid.
“Until you get out to about the mid-20s, mid-2020s, and then we see five, six years of steady and significant growth that’ll take us to a place (of) about fifty percent more employment than we see today,” Geiger said.
Internally, EB has spent a lot of time talking about future workforce needs, what has to be done to meet those needs and how to articulate it. In the future, the company will be reaching out to the community and many of the people in the room Thursday to build future workforce capability. Current training provided at the technical school and community college level as well as other programs will need to continue to grow to meet demand, Geiger said.
“It probably goes without saying, but everything that I’ve described up to this point and everything I’ve forecasted in the future is dependent on the support of the Congress of the United States,” he said.
But U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, who was credited in Geiger’s speech with helping to secure the company the largest shipbuilding contract in the Navy’s history, said awareness of submarines is increasing among federal lawmakers.
“We’ve had more hearings on submarines in the last year than we’ve had in the prior seven,” Courtney said. “In terms of what’s going on in Asia Pacific, but also frankly with (Russian president Vladimir) Putin recapitalizing his Navy, the awareness level is really high amongst members particularly on the armed services and appropriations (committees) that the fleet has got to be bolstered.”
Predictability from EB’s standpoint will come from congressional support in the form of federal funding.
“We certainly face a somewhat uncertain and arguably unstable budget environment from a federal spending standpoint. And no doubt ... defense spending is on the decline, and that’s really metered by the existing budget control act that caps or allocates the defense resources,” Geiger said. “The impacts from that budget control act are more strongly going to be felt probably in fiscal year 2016.”
That’s when the threat of sequestration could return.
“Unfortunately, I hate to say the word, but there is this threat of sequestration again out in that time period. Many people probably remember the angst and the issues that that all created back in 2013. We’re very hopeful that Congress will work together to produce a solid budget for that time period and everybody will be able to continue without significant impact. But that’s clearly something that’s out there that needs to be watched.”