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NEWS | April 11, 2024

Navy's Needed Revitalization of the Submarine Workforce Accelerates

By Team Submarine Public Affairs

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD. — During a key panel at the 2024 Sea-Air-Space exposition, Erica Logan, deputy director for Workforce, Submarine Industrial Base (SIB) program, Program Executive Office (PEO) Strategic Submarines, outlined how her team is addressing critical workforce challenges facing the defense industry and the Navy’s submarine fleet. The panel, titled "The Submarine Workforce Industrial Base Challenge," focused on collaborative strategies to grow the submarine workforce to be able to build three submarines a year.

The panel featured insights from Katherine Dames, managing director for Education and Workforce Development at BlueForge Alliance; Shawn Avery, president and CEO of the Hampton Roads Workforce Council; and Erica Ford, principal in EY’s Government and Public Sector (GPS) and leader of the People Advisory Services practice. Mike Cadenzzi, executive director of EY’s Core Business Services Markets team, moderated the discussion.

The subject matter experts presented a case for a robust partnership between the government, industry, and educational institutions in response to our strategic deterrence and sustainment imperatives. The panel outlined strategies to attract, recruit, and retain the talent necessary to build one Columbia-class and two Virginia-class submarines annually. The audience then contributed to a wide-ranging discussion on one of the nation’s most pressing economic and security challenges.

Logan addressed the socioeconomic and demographic dynamics that have contributed to the workforce shortage, such as the aging population, the prioritization of white-collar careers, and the competition from the services industry. "The Navy realized it had to move beyond its traditional role and engage in all aspects of shipbuilding, from local economic issues to workforce development," she stated.

“We take a holistic approach,” Logan added. “It’s not just people, when we talk about workforce. It is about people, but it’s also about supply chain, it’s about aging infrastructure, it’s about the economic issues. We realize all of these things are intertwined.”

Logan characterized the establishment of the Navy’s SIB program as an ambitious response to an unprecedented demand from the Navy, five times higher than any period in the past three decades. “We did try to move out quickly, but we also tried to move out smartly,” Logan said. She detailed challenges, including the need to hire over 140,000 workers within the next decade to support sustaining the submarine fleet on top of our “1+2” construction objectives.

"That included rebuilding the connective tissue between industry and the surrounding educational ecosystem," Logan stated, emphasizing the importance of aligning the Navy's mission with future workforce members. “We are not going to solve this problem with the existing workforce. We have to get into schools.”

Highlighting one of the SIB’s first outreach efforts, Logan discussed the launch of the "We Build Giants" national marketing campaign and the development of the platform as pivotal in raising awareness and interest among the next generation of workers. has emerged as a central hub, connecting career seekers with employment opportunities and training programs.  "Since its launch, more than 3 million people have visited," Logan noted.

Logan also noted the establishment of state-level talent pipeline programs as part of the SIB’s comprehensive strategy. "We launched talent pipeline programs in key regions such as Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Hampton Roads, Boston, and Long Island," she detailed. These programs match industry demands with their surrounding academic communities, thereby facilitating productive synergies between industry and academia.

"In 2023, the graduating participants in Pennsylvania and Virginia yielded more than 1,700 new workforce members for the submarine and greater maritime enterprise," she said.

She added that the success of these pipeline programs led to the launch of programs in Boston and Long Island, which also resulted in 200 suppliers hiring from these programs last year.  Additionally, the Talent Pipeline Program (TPP) launched in Long Island, NY, in August 2023 includes plans to implement a similar model in southern California in late 2024.

Logan further described how the Navy’s commitment to innovation resulted in Regional Training Systems (RTS). These systems help major shipbuilders and SIB manufacturers with recruitment, training, and retention efforts.

"Our RTS model in New England and Virginia, executed in collaboration with General Dynamics Electric Boat and HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding, respectively, serves as a blueprint for how we can scale our efforts to meet the demand for skilled workers," Logan explained. By optimizing investments and leveraging existing infrastructure, the RTS model has proven effective in drawing qualified candidates and improving hiring and retention across the defense industry.

Logan also addressed the expansion of regional training systems as another critical area of  workforce development. The Accelerated Training in Defense Manufacturing (ATDM) program, co-located with the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR), exemplifies the SIB program's efforts to close skill gaps rapidly.

“We've completed 9 training cohorts, graduating 413 students as of February 2024, with a target capacity of 800-1,000 students per year,” Logan proudly announced. She also mentioned the program's expansion to community colleges in Wisconsin and Michigan, referencing the national scope of the SIB program’s training efforts.

The panel also discussed the National Trades Training Center in Danville, Virginia, as a groundbreaking prototype for the accelerated training of skilled workers in critical trades. With a capacity to train 800-1,000 students annually.

In closing, Logan reiterated the strategic importance of the SIB program's multifaceted approach to workforce development. The future focus will include expanding regional training systems and implementing training pipeline programs to increase overall pipeline throughput. 

Logan's final thoughts underscored the critical nature of skilled labor as a national asset of increasingly crucial importance and one that requires contributions from multiple sectors of society, a sentiment echoed by senior Navy leadership.

“Everyone in this room can take action to help us, and to ensure our national security,” Logan concluded.