By Kelcy Dolan
It was after a year and a half of college that 19-year-old Hannah Cook-Dumas realized education was not for her. She decided to pursue an “old dream” of welding.
A graduate of Tiverton High School, Cook-Dumas began welding at the age of 14 in the family garage. Taught by her father, she enjoyed taking on small projects to fix and build things.
Growing up, she had always heard about the need to go to college, but was unsure of how to move forward to progress in the trade. She finally landed an apprenticeship with a retired employee from Electric Boat who encouraged her to apply to the company herself. Lo and behold she got the job, training with New England Institute of Technology (NEIT) and continuing her education with various certifications.
“I am happy to go into work every day. I didn’t think that was a real thing until now,” Cook-Dumas said. “Now I hope to have a long and successful future with Electric Boat, and I hope more people get the same chance I did to move forward with this company.”
General Dynamic Electric Boat hopes to hire thousands of employees just like Cook-Dumas as they expand to fulfill contracts with the U.S. Navy. Currently, Electric Boat employs 3,500 at Quonset Point and is expected to grow to 5,500 by the end of the 2020s. On July 19 Governor Gina Raimondo, the Department of Labor and Training and Electric Boat unveiled a long-term workforce development plan to ensure Rhode Islanders are the ones employed to those new positions at the Quonset Point facility.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck approach,” Raimondo said. “We have our work cut out for us, but we are up to the challenge.”
Earlier this year Raimondo announced that the state and Electric Boat would be partnering with six career and technical schools throughout the state, including the Warwick Area Career and Technical Center, to begin and improve existing programs in welding, ship-fitting, machining and manufacturing pathways. Over the next two years the program is expected to see nearly 200 students enrolled with the capacity to graduate 350 students annually as the program grows.
Electric Boat will provide support career and technical schools instruction as well as provide paid student internships on site.
Similarly, Real Jobs RI, awarded a $369,500 to the “Pipelines to Manufacturing Careers in Shipbuilding,” a “sector partnership” led by Electric Boat.
The strategic plan previewed Tuesday builds off the previous programs by increasing post employment training for maritime trades at New England Tech as well as the Community College of Rhode Island’s new Westerly Higher Education and Job Skills Center in January 2017. NEIT will also be expanding their Ship Building and Advance Manufacturing Institute (SAMI) from Post Road to the Access Road Campus. CCRI’s Westerly Satellite along with the new skills center will offer maritime sheet metal pipefitting and electrical programs. A post-employment training model will allow new employees to be on the Electric Boat payroll before receiving their training from wither NEIT or CCRI.
“Rhode Island and Electric Boat are on one and the same page,” Scott Jensen, director for the Department of Labor and training said. “This plan exemplifies what can happen when committed partners set their minds to solving big workforce challenges to help people. Completing this task is obviously critical for Rhode Island and our partner and client, EB, but it’s also critical for our client’s client, the United States Navy.”
Both presidents of CCRI and NEIT, Meghan Hughes and Richard Gouse, respectively, expressed their willingness to partner with the state and Electric Boat and their commitment to being a part of Rhode Island’s “economic growth.”
“A year ago I promised our congressional delegation that my administration would move decisively to fulfill Electric Boat’s hiring needs,” Raimondo said. “To compete in the 21st century economy, we need to invest in the skills that businesses need. This plan provides a reliable pipeline of talent to help EB meet its commitments to the U.S. Navy, and it puts thousands of Rhode Islanders to work in well-paying jobs.”
Maura Dunn, Vice President of Human Resources and Administration fro Electric Boat, commended the governor on her “foresight” in bringing together partnerships that will provide citizens with the opportunities to “develop valuable job skills in the advanced manufacturing sector.”
The Congressional Delegation praised Raimondo similarly.
Congressman David Cicilline said that in Washington the delegation fights to bring resources back to the state and it is beneficial to know that in Rhode Island, Raimondo is ensuring an “ecosystem” to translate those resources into jobs. He said that the “innovative” plan would strengthen the state’s relationship with Electric Boat while dually resulting in “well-paying jobs for Rhode Islanders in a growing industry.”
“It’s a win for our workforce, for our overall economy, for Quonset Point and for national security,” said Congressman James Langevin. Senator Jack Reed, said, “This work is vitally important to meeting our national security needs and to strengthening our economy. This workforce development model will also serve as a blueprint for how a more demand-driven workforce development system can achieve results for employers and employees.”