As evidenced by its strategic framework, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility places individuals at the heart of its operations. Without a trained manufacturing crew, the shipyard’s task of maintaining, upgrading, and retiring the U.S. Navy’s fleet would be difficult to accomplish.
The Navy Sustainment System-Shipyards program contributed to the creation and growth of trade specialist roles within the Naval Sea Systems Command organization in April 2022. The expert tradesperson job is created for persons who do not necessarily need managerial responsibilities but would rather mentor junior mechanics while maintaining their own mechanical expertise.
As one of the shipyard’s original trade specialists, Brian Burge, expert mechanic at Shop 38, Marine Machinery Mechanics, and 14-year shipyard employee, offered his knowledge.
Burge stated, “The expert tradesperson program allowed me to advance in the shop while continuing to do what I truly like, which is the problem solving and creative thinking aspect of Shop 38.” “The selection procedure began with supervisor evaluations, continued with a one-hour exam covering all aspects of Shop 38, and concluded with an oral interview with three shop general foremen.”
PSNS & IMF now employ 86 trade specialists, with an aim of employing 128 specialists by October 2023. Marine mechanics, painters, interior machinists, riggers, instrument mechanics, welders, electricians, ship fitters, sheet metal workers, pipe fitters, insulators, fabric workers, and plastic fabricators have been given trade specialist posts.
Jason Beller, production resource and planning manager for Code 900, Production Resources, stated, “I find this effort to be exceptional in that we are first recognizing our tradespeople who have worked hard throughout their careers to master their craft, and secondly embracing their knowledge, skills, abilities, and expertise as vital to our success and our mission at all four public shipyards.”
The information that trade specialists bring to the table is priceless and plays a crucial role in enhancing the retention rates of both competent mechanics and new employees seeking proficiency.
Burge stated, “[As a trade specialist] I still find great value and happiness in my profession, therefore the supervisor path never really appealed to me.” This role is ideal for someone who genuinely appreciates the profession and is fine with not being in charge or overseeing others.
By the conclusion of fiscal year 2023, NAVSEA aims to have 321 trade specialists across all four public shipyards. The trained trade specialists at PSNS & IMF are assisting in maintaining a workforce that is willing, competent, and prepared to execute at the highest level.