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NEWS | June 9, 2022

EXPERT TRADESPERSON | NSS-SY Shipyard Resourcing pillar develops new career path, increases support to mechanics

By PSNS & IMF Public Affairs Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility

A new career path at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility provides expert mechanics with the means and motivation to train and mentor the next generation of journey-level workers. The Navy’s four public shipyards are the most consequential driver of fleet readiness and lethality. In order to win wars and deter aggression, our Navy must be at sea with combat ready ships and submarines — it is the shipyard’s job to deliver that combat capability to the fleet on time, every time.

The Naval Sustainment System - Shipyard Resourcing Pillar Team is working to create and enable advanced career goals within the shipyard by concentrating on the productive capacity of each shipyard along with workforce experience and retention.

The shipyards’ mechanics are a driving force behind delivering every availability on time, every time. The entire workforce, from Naval Sea Systems Command to the Chief of Naval Operations, has a role in providing the resources mechanics need to do their jobs. This includes removing barriers, elevating problems and providing training and development to less-experienced personnel.

There is no doubt the shipyard’s more experienced subject matter expert mechanics, with years of knowledge, can provide mentoring and training to less experienced mechanics. The question is, how does the shipyard hold onto these trade experts so they can assist in growing a stronger, more confident and capable team?

The Shipyard Resourcing Pillar Team developed a career path in the trades to ensure success: the Expert Tradesperson Work Leader. This career path provides WG-10s an opportunity to advance to a WL-10, creating an incentive to further a career in the trades, and producing another avenue for training problem solving and proficiency.

Beginning April 1, a pilot of this new career path position will begin at PSNS & IMF in Shop 38, Marine Machinery Mechanics, and in Shop 71, Painters, at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine. Eventually all trades, across all four shipyards, will offer the expert tradesperson career path.

"Being part of this pilot has two primary benefits: one, it provides a career opportunity for those who desire to continue serving in Shop 38 in the role of Expert Tradesperson. Two, we have been presented an excellent learning opportunity and will be sharing this journey with all trades across the four shipyards," said Steve Martinsen, workforce development director, Shop 38.

The mechanic will be able to work toward a career as an expert tradesperson through the apprenticeship path or by progressing through the wage grade levels until they reach a WG-10. With the addition of the new career path, the mechanic can apply for expert tradesperson work leader (nonsupervisory) or management work leader.

"Essentially, the shipyard has created an additional career opportunity in the trades," said Jason Dirstine, production manager, Code 900B, Production Resources Department. "Mechanics aiming for supervisory roles in their trade can choose the Management Work Leader path; and those looking to mentor, advise and train mechanics, along with conducting and overseeing work, can choose the path of the Expert Tradesperson Work Leader."

This investment builds a career path that empowers the production workforce through increased responsibility and authority, while preserving trade skill capability in shops and on the deck plate.

The pillar team began this process by completing the evaluation of position descriptions in various levels of the Federal Wage System. They also evaluated series grade levels and pay ranges to assess incentives that may increase retention. Finally, a new position description was classified and is now available to formally recognize an expert tradesperson.

As part of the initial assessment of this initiative, focus groups were conducted within both pilot area shops. At PSNS & IMF, Shop 38 general foremen, supervisors, work leaders and mechanics from the focus groups highlighted that the new position would help to retain mechanics, provide employees with career progression after reaching the mechanic position, and would pay the experienced mechanic for their level of knowledge, skill and ability in the development of the newer workforce.

Now that the position description is completed, the team will be moving forward to bring awareness of this initiative to the production workforce and allow time for them to prepare for the upcoming hiring and selection process.