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USN secretary calls for increased immigration to augment US shipbuilding labour

US Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said the country needs more blue-collar workers to meet navy shipbuilding needs at yards like Newport News Shipbuilding, shown here. (Janes/Michael Fabey)

To address the shortage of workers needed to build the number of ships needed to meet US Navy (USN) fleet plans, the country should seek to bring in more legal immigrants from foreign shores, according to US Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro.

While acknowledging the impact of Covid-related issues on USN shipbuilding schedules on 23 April during an event at the Stimson Center, Del Toro said, “The bigger problem is the lack of blue-collar workers.”

Del Toro called on US lawmakers to “increase the amount of legal immigration” and work visas for potential shipbuilding work to come into country, despite the political divisions preventing such bipartisanship.

“We need to open up the spigot on legal immigration and allow blue-collar works to come here,” he said.

He underscored the need for retraining the new workforce for shipyard trades needed to build USN ships.

He also noted the USN's plan to spend USD15 billion for the submarine industrial base (SIB) over the next five years, as well as an additional USD1 billion for surface-fleet ship work.

For more information on the impact of labour shortages on submarine-building programmes, please see Tall order: Australia's SSN ambitions under scrutiny amid production constraints.

The idea, he said, is to “work with industry and bring the production rates up to where they need to be”.

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