Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding division has a lot of hiring to do.
The company, which, is the sole designer, builder and refueler of U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and one of two providers of U.S. Navy submarines, anticipates hiring almost 7,000 people, including the creation of 2,000 new jobs over the next five years.
The company currently employs more than 22,000 employees and is the largest industrial employer in Virginia and the largest shipbuilding company in the United States.
These new hires will support Newport News Shipbuilding’s contract to build significant components for the new Columbia-class submarines, along with its existing product lines, including the construction of Virginia-class submarines, the refueling and complex overhaul and defueling of the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, and the construction of Ford-class aircraft carriers.
In order to fulfill these contracts, the company is joining with the Commonwealth of Virginia to find these workers. This new partnership will be led by the Secretary of Commerce and Trade, who will coordinate support from existing economic development programs for Newport News Shipbuilding’s major hiring and retraining initiatives. This partnership will be aided by various state agencies, including Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the Virginia Community College System, the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC), and the Virginia Office of Veterans and Defense Affairs.
Job creation was one of the primary reasons that back in 2016, the General Assembly of Virginia approved the Advanced Shipbuilding Production Facility Grant Program making available up to $46 million in capital funds to Newport News Shipbuilding to help the company upgrade its foundry and invest in facilities necessary to build Columbia-class submarines. The company will be eligible for these grants if they make capital investment of at least $750 million and create at least 1,000 jobs in the Columbia-class submarine program.
In addition to this significant hiring initiative, Newport News is retraining employees over the next five years to incorporate new digital shipbuilding technology and is continuing to make capital investments in the company’s facilities and technology infrastructure.
“As we continue to transform our business, we look forward to recruiting, training and retaining talented men and women who will help meet our workforce needs now and into the future,” said Newport News Shipbuilding President Jennifer Boykin. “This effort requires strong community leadership. That’s why we are excited about this partnership with the commonwealth. Working with government, business and educational systems ensure we have the additional resources necessary to continue our investment in our greatest resource: our people.”
A variety of state programs will be involved in training. One program is The Virginia Jobs Investment Program which provides consultative services and funding to companies creating new jobs or experiencing technological change to support employee training activities. This agency will fund Newport News to help the company retrain its incumbent workers with skills necessary to support the company’s digital transformation that is replacing legacy manufacturing techniques with high-tech alternatives. Newport News will also benefit from a GO Virginia grant and state funding to Old Dominion University to stand up the nation’s first workforce program in digital shipbuilding. The Virginia Digital Shipbuilding Workforce Program will develop a curriculum that can be shared with education and training partners statewide to prepare the current and future workforce for digital manufacturing jobs in shipbuilding.
And the Commonwealth wants to ensure that these jobs are filled in the state.
“We have a responsibility as a Commonwealth to ensure that every single one of these jobs gets filled with a skilled and trained Virginian who is ready to succeed,” said Governor Ralph Northam when announcing the partnership.
Currently, the region has 30,000 students enrolled in career technical education programs. “This represents a 33% increase in enrollment over the past three years and is an important part of the talent pipeline for the industry,” said Chief Workforce Advisor Megan Healy.
Another source of future employees is veterans. The company has a history of employing veterans and currently employs 6,300. They plan to continue to reach out to veterans for the jobs.
“Huntington Ingalls Industries is a long-time supporter of our military and veterans communities,” said Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Carlos Hopkins. “We are particularly proud of the partnership it has with our Virginia Values Veterans (V3) Program, which trains employers how to recruit and retain veterans.”