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By Aime Lykins, PSNS & IMF Public Affairs
As seen by its strategic framework, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility places people at the center of its operations. Without a skilled production workforce, the shipyard would face challenges in meeting its mission of maintaining, modernizing and retiring the U.S. Navy’s fleet.
In April 2022, the Naval Sustainment System-Shipyards initiative helped with the creation and development of trade expert positions within the Naval Sea Systems Command enterprise. The expert tradesperson role is designed for individuals who do not necessarily want to take on supervisory duties but would rather take on mentorship roles for junior mechanics, all while remaining proficient mechanics themselves.
Brian Burge, expert mechanic, Shop 38, Marine Machinery Mechanics, and shipyard employee of 14 years, shared his experience as one of the shipyard’s first trade experts.
“The expert tradesperson program allowed me a chance to move up in the shop while still doing what I really enjoy, which is the problem solving and creative thinking side of Shop 38,” said Burge. “The selection process started with supervisor ratings, next there was a one-hour comprehensive test for all things Shop 38, and after that there was an oral board with three shop general foreman."
To date there are 86 trade experts at PSNS & IMF, with a hiring goal of 128 experts by October 2023. Trade expert positions have been created for marine mechanics, painters, inside machinists, riggers, instrument mechanics, welders, electricians, ship fitters, sheet metal workers, pipe fitters, insulators, fabric workers and plastic fabricators.
“I find this effort outstanding in that we are first recognizing our tradespeople who have worked hard in their careers to master their craft, and secondly embracing their knowledge, skills, abilities and expertise as vital to our success and our mission at all four public shipyards,” said Jason Beller, production resource and planning manager for Code 900, Production Resources.
The knowledge that trade experts bring to the table is invaluable and plays an important role in improving retention rates of both skilled mechanics and new employees looking to become proficient.
“[As a trade expert] I still find a lot of value and enjoyment in what I do at work so the supervisor route never really appealed to me,” said Burge “This position is perfect for someone who really enjoys the trade, and is happy and content not running the show or supervising others.”
NAVSEA’s target is to have 321 trade experts across all four public shipyards by the end of fiscal year 2023. The skilled trade experts at PSNS & IMF are helping to ensure the workforce remains ready, willing and able to perform with excellence.