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NEWS | June 11, 2024

U.S. Navy's Submarine Industrial Base (SIB) Hosts Talent Pipeline Project (TPP) Signing Day with First Cohort to Join Navy at NSWC Philadelphia Division

By Gary Ell

The U.S. Navy's Submarine Industrial Base (SIB) program hosted a Talent Pipeline Project (TPP) Signing Day event at Hilton Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia on May 23, 2024.

The ceremony recognized the latest wave of skilled workers joining the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) and first cohort to enter the U.S. Navy as civilian employees at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division (NSWCPD).

The event marked the culmination of the SIB multiyear effort to develop a robust talent pipeline across the region. Working with partners in industry, academia, and local government, the SIB program has launched training and recruitment initiatives to cultivate the next generation of welders, pipefitters, electricians, and other critical tradespeople.
These programs represent enterprise collaboration and include more than 290 defense industry and 140 academic partners.

The May Signing Day celebrated more than 2,100 individuals who are now embarking on careers at small and medium-sized defense industrial base suppliers - the vital network of companies that provide components, materials, and services critical to new construction and sustainment of our maritime forces. Local shipbuilding companies, elected officials, and community leaders were on hand to celebrate the graduates and welcome them into this critical defense industry.

Training Modernization Group (TMG), Inc., in support of the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Shipbuilding Industrial Base Task, has the overall lead for the program launched in Philadelphia at NSWCPD in May 2021.
“When we get passionate industry leaders in the room together focused on a common mission one comes to realize that they are part of something bigger than themselves. And when that happens, the bonds and relationships created foster the environment for a high-performance team that is necessary to accomplish this mission so critical to the defense of our great Nation,” said TMG’s Bruce Warner, team lead of the Philadelphia Talent Pipeline, in kicking off the signing event and describing the project as the DIB’s connective tissue.

The U.S. Navy has outlined a once-in-a-generation plan to build one Columbia-Class and two Virginia-Class submarines each year over the next decade. The SIB, which includes two prime shipbuilders and more than 16,000 suppliers across the country, faces a fivefold increase in workload and numerous headwinds to successfully meet that demand.
The SIB is a vital part of the United States’ national security. For decades, this skilled group of industry partners have provided critical components, products, and services to ensure the design, construction, maintenance, and modernization of the U.S. Navy fleet.

“It’s an incredibly complex system that delivers national security – and it is threatened right now,” said Executive Director, Program Executive Office Strategic Submarines Matt Sermon, SES, during his keynote address.

“Ninety percent of our goods come across the ocean, 97 percent of data comes under sea. The protection, the freedom of those seas, is fundamental to every single thing we do. The free economy that creates jobs and creates the freedom to do what we want with our lives rests on the American worker. It rests on that system and ability that builds the foundation of national security,” Sermon added.

The millions of hands that ultimately build these great vessels hail from every state in the country, and according to Chris Scafario, executive president and CEO of the Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center (DVIRC) and TPP partner, it has a vast network of over 16,000 suppliers that range from small, family-owned businesses to vast ship builders. The industrial base’s dedication to the mission and continued innovation have enabled the Navy to stay ahead of the curve and anticipate needs, providing a strategic advantage and a fundamental differentiator in the defense of the Nation.

“This program has laid down a foundation for us to do this together, and Philadelphia is that foundation,” Sermon said.

As an estimated 20 percent of the Columbia-Class supply chain comes from the Delaware Valley and its surrounding regions, Talent Pipeline partner DVIRC is working to support the urgent demand for increased workforce and capacity in the region’s SIB. Their goal is to spur broad community engagement to connect more people to the mission—recruiting, hiring, training, and retaining a skilled workforce to support the SIB.

“We must all work together to build concrete and accountable actions that will get our Navy ship building plan back on track. We need everyone listening and across the Nation to be all in. Not only ship and submarine building and repair industry, but the entire Defense Industrial Base,” Commander U.S. Fleet Forces Command Adm. Daryl Caudle said in a recorded video.

Coached by TMG’s Leilani Hilton, The Philadelphia Region Talent Acquisition and Retention Project Team is energizing and engaging the greater Philadelphia Region economy. By creating and sustaining a maritime and defense industrial base-focused Talent Acquisition and Retention pipeline, the team helps to enable employers to re-capitalize their workforce through recruiting, hiring, training, and retaining skilled workforce members with critical trade skills for one year as productive and engaged new employees.

“This year, the Philadelphia network has a total of 35 hiring employers announcing 309 new hires,” Hilton said.

For example, the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative (WPSI) and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) Navy Yard Skills Initiative (NYSI) launched a program to train Philadelphia residents for permanent, full-time, union careers starting at $25/hour with NSWCPD.

According to PIDC’s Navy Yard website, this partnership aims to increase stability and economic opportunity for working Philadelphians. It is the bold solution necessary to close the opportunity gap in Philadelphia. For ten years, WPSI has solidified its role as one of the highest performing workforce intermediaries in the country by building customized talent solutions that bridge the divide between unemployed Philadelphians seeking opportunity and employers seeking talent. The Skills Initiative runs year-round, cohort-based, jobs-driven training models that harness the hiring power of our area’s major employers, while cultivating its neighbors’ talent.

The pilot program builds a pipeline to NSWCPD’s Industrial Trades Developmental Program (ITDP), a two-year paid training opportunity consisting of trade theory instruction and on-the-job skills training before starting as either a machinery mechanic or electrician. NSWCPD developed the ITDP to ensure the defense and maritime ecosystems have the people and trades needed to meet the current and future demands of the U.S. Navy.

WPSI and NSWCPD took center stage during the program’s main signing event.

“NSWCPD, represented by its Technical Director Nigel C. Thijs, SES, is in its third year of the program and is happy to report that three new hires from last year have reached their first year anniversary and are reporting 17 new hires this year,” Hilton said.

“This is a monumental day and a really big milestone for the command and for the individuals in the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative that have onboarded with us,” Thijs said.

“It’s really exciting for me because this is not only the culmination of their own personal journeys but it’s really the culmination of a lot of hard work from the Human Resources and Industrial Services Divisions at NSWCPD that took my vision to forge this partnership and actually bring the first Navy Cohort in one of the Navy’s own initiatives – the Pennsylvania Pipeline. Who’s best to participate in this but us - the Navy,” he said.

“I’m really excited for this class and continued partnerships into the future because the strength of our industrial base is crucial to the Nation’s security and future prosperity,” Thijs added.

Gathering on the stage with Thijs were the program participants celebrating their one-year anniversary and new hires including: Stefan Schein, Yolanda Butler, Tahir Abdul-Hadi, Patrick Cosgrove, Wayne Fuller, Rassunako Person, Andrew Butler, Justin Holmes, Mark Byrd Jr., Ryan Crabill, Brandon Muir, and Ranoldo Turcious Acosto (all from the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative).

When asked about the program, Abdul-Hadi said, “I’ve been in the program for six months to become a master electrician and I love it. It’s a great program. The Navy is a great way to learn a skilled trade.”

“I think this is an excellent opportunity for someone looking for something to do in their lives,” Person said, adding, “For me, personally, I believe this is a life-changing program and opportunity that they have right here at the Navy Yard. I think it’s really special. I found the program through the West Philly Skills Initiative, and I would really like to thank the Initiative and I would like to thank Mr. Thijs who spearheads the program. Without him, I wouldn’t be here right now.”

According to the TPP website, The Philadelphia Region Talent Acquisition and Retention Project Team has developed a Workforce Pipeline Model. The purpose of the Philadelphia Region Workforce Master Plan is to explain the integrated and synchronized partnership which transforms the traditional career and technical education (CTE) paradigm by redefining the customer, supplier, product relationship. In the traditional model, the CTE student is the customer, and the product “sold” to employers is CTE graduates with training and certificates seeking employment.

In this new Talent Acquisition and Retention Pipeline Solution model, the customers are the employers. The product is an energized local economy in which employers are enabled to operate a more profitable and productive business by hiring and retaining better employees. The suppliers are the Career & Technical Education (CTE) programs who enroll students and produce skilled candidates primarily for entry-level positions.

NSWCPD employs approximately 2,800 civilian engineers, scientists, technicians, and support personnel. The NSWCPD team does the research and development, test and evaluation, acquisition support, and in-service and logistics engineering for the non-nuclear machinery, ship machinery systems, and related equipment and material for Navy surface ships and submarines. NSWCPD is also the lead organization providing cybersecurity for all ship systems.