By SHAUN KIRBY
WARWICK—After a stop at their Groton, Conn. facility earlier that morning, officials from Electric Boat met with state legislative leaders in Warwick Monday to announce its plans to increase job positions in Quonset. Gov. Gina Raimondo was on hand, along with Senators Jack Reed, Sheldon Whitehouse, and a handful of state leaders.
“When I took office a couple years ago, I pledged my administration would move decisively to give Rhode Islanders the training they needed to fill jobs at Electric Boat,” said Raimondo in her opening comments at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick.
According to Jeffrey Geiger, President of General Dynamics Electric Boat, the submarine contractor hopes to hire approximately 2,000 new jobs in 2017, 650 of which are expected to be in Quonset. With 11 out of 15 submarines contracted to be built for the U.S. Navy under construction, Geiger expects more jobs to be created by the 2020s.
Geiger added that approximately 80 percent of the U.S. Navy’s submarine work is done by Electric Boat, with another 20 percent at the Newport News Shipbuilding facility in Virginia. He said that EB typically builds two Virginia-class, nuclear-powered submarines a year. With the new Columbia-class submarine in design phases and expected to begin construction in 2018, the Navy is expected to tap even more into EB’s resources and manpower.
“I believe there is a much higher probability for the future to increase beyond what we are currently projecting because of the need and roles these subs play,” said the EB president. “This signals only good things for the communities we operate in.”
Raimondo announced the approval of $3.6 million to hire and train nearly 500 workers at Electric Boat’s Quonset Point facility through the Real Jobs RI program. The initiative, which began in April 2015, currently holds approximately $15 million in federal and state monies to help fund 26 workforce training partnerships across the state, one of which is with Electric Boat.
“These programs are going to make sure Rhode Islanders get these jobs,” said the governor. “I couldn’t be more proud to be the governor of a state that makes the most sophisticated ships in the world.”
Electric Boat also received over $360,000 in grant funds last year for job training initiatives through the Real Jobs RI program. Geiger said on Monday that the Quonset Point facility, which currently has approximately 3,500 workers, expects to employ nearly 5,500 by the 2020s. The submarine contractor and the state are subsequently placing a heavy emphasis on partnerships with local career and technical programs, including those in the Chariho and Coventry school districts.
“We have a lot of programs in process today,” said Geiger. “The initial results are very encouraging and exciting.”
In North Kingstown, Superintendent Philip Auger said that although the district does not currently have a career and technical partnership with EB, it is currently pursuing one.
“[The Rhode Island Dept. of Education] knows we have a big interest in establishing some kind of training program,” he said Tuesday. “In the next week or two, I am looking to be meeting with Electric Boat representatives.”
Michael Healey, spokesperson for the Rhode Island Dept. of Labor and Training (DLT), said on Tuesday that 64 workers currently employed at Electric Boat will receive ‘up-skill’ training at the Community College of Rhode Island and New England Institute of Technology in order to move into different, high-skilled positions within the company.
“They are workers already employed by EB, but have expressed desire in wanting to do something different,” he said. “They don’t have these skills, and that is what the training program is for.”
Raimondo and Geiger praised Rhode Island’s congressional delegation for securing federal monies over the past year to help fund labor training and hiring programs. Reed and U.S. Congressman James Langevin gave praise to Electric Boat and Rhode Island’s legislative leaders, in turn.
“The real credit goes to the men and women at Electric Boat,” said Reed. “They build the best, most sophisticated war craft in the world, ahead of schedule and ahead of budget.”
“We are proud of the workforce and product [Electric Boat] produces,” said Langevin. “At the end of the day, it really is a team effort.”