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NEWS | April 16, 2023

School of Steel: New Shop 11/17 training facility provides more 'structured environment' for shipyard employees to hone their skills

By Ben Hutto, PSNS & IMF Public Affairs

After ten years of effort and working through multiple challenges, Shop 11/17, Shipfitters, Forge, Sheetmetal, held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the re-dedication of its School of Steel training facility in Building 460 at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility, April 5. The new school will provide a safe-to-fail training environment that will allow Shop 11/17 workers of all experience levels to perfect their metal working skills.

Those attending the ceremony saw the capabilities of the school on display as Shop 11/17 workers created plates, vents, handrails and other metal products at various work stations throughout the school, demonstrating the type of products the school will provide.

Luke Williams, the workforce development director for Shop 11/17. “This school will allow us to have a much more structured training environment for our workers. All of our employees have a place to work on their skills in an environment that is as close to being on the waterfront as possible.”

Creating a realistic training environment was a huge goal when setting up the school, explained Jarred Jennings, training manager (non-nuclear), Shop 11/17.

“A lot of new workers didn’t have a grasp on what a ship actually looked like until they were working on it for the first time,” he said. “This school will give them a much closer experience to what it’s like working on a ship.”

For leaders like Williams and Jennings, helping their co-workers get the best training possible has been a priority. Williams estimates that workers in the school will be learning approximately two blocks of training per week, which typically span two to four days.

“It’s hands-on training and we can tailor the training to each individual,” said Jennings. “We develop them in every aspect they will need, which includes developing leadership and teaching them how to fill out paperwork correctly. It encompasses more than just working with your hands. We teach them tool safety, how to navigate a ship and how to do hot work safely and correctly.”

The school occupies around 2,400 square feet spread out across two floors in Building 460. Finding the material for students to work with came from a surprising source.

“A lot of the things they will be working on in the school are recycled from old boats,” said Williams. “The tanks, plates, vents — all of them come off actual ships. It creates very realistic training.”

According to Jennings, using actual parts from ships saves on costs, helps students become familiar with situations they will handle daily and gives them confidence when they begin working on actual projects.

With realistic training, the space to learn more structured plan, Shop 11/17’s School of Steel is ready to train its workers more effectively.

“This is just the start of the process,” said Williams. “The School of Steel will never be complete. We are always changing to meet to needs of the Navy. One of our biggest challenges has always been to keep our ear to the deckplates and listen to what our mechanics are asking for. This school will help us do that even better.”