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EB makes appeal to younger students to fill hiring need

Groton — Electric Boat anticipates that 2029, when current third-graders will be graduating from high school, will be its peak year for hiring.

Knowing that, the submarine builder is now "strongly advocating for an exposure to manufacturing jobs and an interest in shipbuilding" at the elementary and middle school level, EB President Kevin Graney said Monday, as he delivered the company's annual business outlook to a crowd at the Mystic Marriott.

Most of that outreach has been done in Rhode Island with plans to expand further in Connecticut this year.

In 10 years, the company expects to have 20,000 employees and to be building two attack submarines and one ballistic missile submarine per year.

"It's been a full generation since we've been producing submarines at this volume," Graney said.

To get there, the company will hire as many as 18,000 people, mainly to work in trades positions such as welders and pipefitters, over the next 10 years to replace retirees and to fill new positions.

Of the 16,800 current employees, about 70% work in Connecticut and around 24% work in Rhode Island with the remainder at sites across the country.

The company has no shortage of work. Eleven attack submarines are in varying levels of construction between EB's facilities in Groton and Quonset Point, R.I., and Newport News Shipbuilding Virginia, the two private shipyards that build submarines for the Navy.

Last fall, the Navy and EB signed the largest shipbuilding contract in the service's history for $22.2 billion to build at least another nine of these submarines over the next five years, with the option to build a 10th submarine.

The company has a workload that spans decades. Soon, construction will start on a new, 84-foot-longer version of the attack submarine, which will be able to launch 28 additional Tomahawk missiles and will involve 25% more work.

In the fall, construction on the first of 12 ballistic-missiles submarines is expected to start. EB will be building these submarines through 2040 and, as Graney said, those who will graduate from high school that year haven't even been born yet. The company is in the midst of an $850 million expansion at its Groton shipyard to ensure it can build the ballistic-missile submarines at the same time construction of the attack submarines is happening.

The ballistic-missile submarines, which will be about the size of the Washington Monument, will roam the world's oceans through the 2080s.

All this is happening due to a resurgence of submarines in U.S. national security policy and continued support from Congress, which has approved more than $11 billion for submarine programs in the past two defense budgets. U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, chairman of the House panel with oversight of Navy shipbuilding, noted that the support has been bipartisan at a polarizing time in Congress.

"For first time since the fall of the Soviet Union, we're experiencing a return to great power competition. This changing threat environment has the potential to further increase the relevance of submarines and the need for more undersea capabilities to ensure the U.S. Navy never fights fair," said Graney, a retired submarine officer.

The expansion at EB has extended to its supply base. More than $18.4 billion went to the company's more than 2,000 suppliers across the country in the past five years. Of that, $861.7 million went to EB's 328 suppliers in Connecticut.

Training pipelines to generate the number of skilled workers needed at EB are being used by suppliers to develop their workforces, too, Graney said.

Also on Monday, Courtney, announced that John Beauregard, president and chief executive officer of the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board, will be his guest of honor Tuesday for President Donald Trump's State of the Union address.

Beauregard was instrumental in crafting and implementing the EWIB Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative, an award-winning jobs skills training program that the U.S. Department of Labor has recognized as a model for similar programs nationwide. Most of these jobs will be at EB.

"There's a boatload of activity at hand and on the horizon for eastern Connecticut's manufacturing sector," Courtney said. "Thousands of new manufacturing careers are going to become available in our region over the next few years, and it's because of the visionary work of folks like John Beauregard ... "

j.bergman@theday.com

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