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Electric Boat Revives Apprenticeship Program as Hiring Ramps Up

Electric Boat
A Virginia class submarine undergoes sea trials
Credit Harriet Jones / WNPR
Rep. Joe Courtney with new EB apprentice Anne Messerschmidt

Submarine maker Electric Boat is about to resurrect its long-dormant apprenticeship program. It’s one more way to ensure the shipyard can find enough talented workers in coming years. 

Electric Boat is hiring, and it expects to be hiring for some time to come.

Second District Representative Joe Courtney -- nicknamed two subs Joe after helping to secure the funding for the yard to produce two Virginia Class boats a year -- said he counted more than 200 job openings on the company’s website last week.

“In many respects the real question of the day for Connecticut is whether or not we’re going to put together the effort, whether it’s at tech schools, community colleges, and now with the apprenticeship program to really meet this challenge,” he told a news conference Monday.

The Virginia class program is one reason for the expansion. Another is the design work on the Ohio class replacement that was also recently funded.

"We must remain steadfast in our pursuit of maintaining our manufacturing base, something that had declined for many, many years," said Governor Dannel Malloy. "Each apprentice will gain a national credential, while our state will gain another highly skilled worker for manufacturing."

Over the years EB has had a thriving apprenticeship program which brought in recruits and rotated them through all of the shipyard trades before they found their niche. It was let slide in 2005, but come January is will be back, with 60 new recruits.

Leader of the Metal Trades Council, Ken Delacruz, himself graduated the EB apprenticeship program back in the 1970s.

“This is a great moment for all of us, because we are going to pass on the skills and the knowledge, that generations of our shipbuilders have done over the years,” he said.

Among the new recruits, Anne Messerschmidt, one of only three women in the apprentice program, who says she’s taking on a tradition. "Being a machinist runs in my family, my father, my grandfather, my uncle," she said. "I also have a ton of engineers in the family, so being in this program means so much to me."

The program is being funded by part of a $5 million federal grant administered through the Connecticut Department of Labor. It’s aimed at providing training for 1,000 people over five years.

Harriet Jones is Managing Editor for Connecticut Public Radio, overseeing the coverage of daily stories from our busy newsroom.
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