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NEWS | July 7, 2022

NSS-SY Spotlight: New expert tradesperson path incentivizes skill

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

With more than 12,000 employees, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility offers numerous career paths to its workforce. With a focus on human capital management, the Naval Sustainment System-Shipyards People Pillar, previously known as the Resourcing Pillar, is structured to help shipyard employees advance their careers and find fulfillment in their work.

Recently, the NSS-SY People Pillar Team developed an expert tradesperson career path to promote expert mechanics at the WG-10 level (WG-11 in some trades) to WL-10 and WL-11 paygrades. The goal is for every mechanic across the four public shipyards to have the opportunity to choose between a career path as a technical expert tradesperson work leader or in a supervisory role as a management work leader. This new technical expert career path keeps tools in the hands of mechanics.

“The overall intent is to incentivize a career in the trades and increase responsibilities and authorities within the production department, thereby dramatically improving throughput and production capacity,” said Rear Adm. Scott Brown, deputy commander, Industrial Operations, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA 04). “The benefit for our production workforce is this career path rewards individuals who prefer to remain on the deckplates with additional pay and creates a career path that sustains the workforce while simultaneously providing incentive for younger mechanics to strive to attain the same level of competency.”

The expert tradesperson role is ideal for those who do not want to take on supervisory duties, however trade experts are welcome to pursue supervisory duties should they have the interest in the future. While the traditional work leader aids the supervisor with managerial duties, the expert trades work leader assists the supervisor with leading and developing the work crew. This exciting career path allows the experts in each trade to share their experiences, teach new techniques, shape the workforce, and train new hires and less-experienced tradespeople so they too can become experts and advance in their career path. This is a crucial position, which will ensure the success of the PSNS & IMF mission.

PSNS & IMF’s expert tradesperson pilot program began April 1 in Shop 38 with a call for applicants, which yielded more than 30 WG-10-qualified individuals from within the shipyard. Applicants completed a rigorous evaluation process that included a resume review, supervisor evaluation, written exam and an interview by a panel of general foreman from various disciplines. The newly hired trade experts bring a wealth of valuable knowledge and skills.

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard concurrently ran a successful trade expert pilot for painters in Shop 71. Building on that knowledge, a major step forward for PSNS & IMF is approval for Shop 71 WG-10 positions, an effort that has been more than 10 years in the making. Once the Shop 71 openings are filled, there will be opportunity for those individuals to advance to the trade expert level. Coming soon are expert tradesperson positions for Code 740 riggers, Shop 31 machinists, and Shop 52 calibrated tooling technicians. Employees interested in upcoming expert tradesperson openings within their code or shop can talk with their supervisor, resource office or workforce development team.

The knowledge sharing between the two shipyards is helping to create the framework for rollout within every trade at all four naval shipyards by January 2023. Each trade will determine the best path for advancement to the expert trade work leader, which will help shape the landscape for a proficient, capable and knowledgeable workforce.

The NSS-SY People Pillar also supports the NSS-SY Waterfront Pillar by providing mechanics with the chance to increase their skill-based knowledge, develop problem solving skills, and improve communication skills and computer proficiency. The expert tradesperson ultimately boosts the collective caliber of mechanics executing availabilities and inactivation projects.