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US Navy secretary underscores the need to grow shipbuilding workforce

The current US shipbuilding workforce will not meet future US Navy needs. (Janes/Michael Fabey)

The US needs to significantly augment its shipbuilding workforce to meet the country's construction and maintenance demands, US Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro noted on 14 December during a keynote speech at the 3rd Naval Nuclear Submarine and Aircraft Carrier Suppliers Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“We're going to need 150,000 new qualified workers in the next 10 years – pre-apprenticeship, registered apprenticeship, and labour management programmes are critical tools to help fulfill this labour demand,” said Del Toro.

“We must establish programmes that build capacity in fields like naval architecture, engineering, and life-cycle management, as well as technical expertise in nuclear welding, robotics, software management, and additive manufacturing,” he said.

“As we're developing these skillsets throughout our shipbuilding workforce, we must continue to leverage our nation's advantage in technology and innovation in the maritime domain,” he added.

However, he noted, “Agility in ship production and design requires developing new, digital tools for our workforce to improve efficiency and capacity.”

He cited the creation of the Government Shipbuilder Council as a key part of the overall effort. The council had its first meeting about a month ago, he noted. The council includes four US cabinet departments – Defense, Transportation, Homeland Security, and Commerce – and five shipbuilding organisations to identify “what actions we need to take to build the strength and readiness of our respective fleets”, he said.

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