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August 27, 2018

Portsmouth shipyard scrambling to find 700 skilled workers

Photo / Jim Neuger
Photo / Jim Neuger
Capt. David Hunt, commander of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, is putting out the call that the shipyard plans to hire 700 works next year to meet its booming workload.

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery has plans to hire 700 employees next year to meet a booming workload.

Seacoastonline.com reported the Navy's submarine overhaul shipyard in the past two years hired 1,400 people. But yard commander Capt. David Hunt told the outlet that upgrade of one of its three dry docks is needed in order to meet future demand. Initial work has begun to upgrade the dock. Hunt said the yard has been able to attract candidates for its apprenticeship program, but the Seacoast region's 2% unemployment rate has made it difficult to find skilled employees.

The shipyard has numerous posts on its Facebook page advertising job fairs. One such fair, held Aug. 22 at York County Community College in Wells, was designed for candidates with two or more years' experience in an applicable trade.

"The shipyard is looking to fill 200 positions in the production trades," the post says. "Select positions featured at the job fair may be eligible for a recruitment incentive, with amounts dependent on the qualification of the candidate." Another post says its 2019 Trades Apprenticeship opening has been extended to Aug. 31. "The shipyard needs to fill approximately 170 positions in more than 20 trades with individuals that have the attitude and aptitude to become part of the Navy's center of excellence for attack submarine overhaul, repair, and modernization," the post says. Benefits include paid vacation time and holidays, paid sick leave, health and dental insurance, flexible spending accounts, retirement plan, and more.

Major driver of Seacoast region’s economy

In April, Seacoast Shipyard Association reported the yard's total economic impact in 2017 was $751.8 million. That includes a total payroll for 6,450 employees of $525.2 million.

The Seacoast Shipyard Association's annual report showed the shipyard's 6,450 employment level in 2017 continued an upward trend since 2014, with the previous three years being 5,585 employees in 2014, 6,099 employees in 2015 and 6,329 employees in 2016.

Established by the federal government in 1800 and today spread across 300 acres on a group of islands in the Piscataqua River and linked by two bridges to Kittery, the yard is the oldest of four remaining naval shipyards, with a reputation for delivering ahead of schedule at or below budget. The government-owned-and-operated facility is one of the state's top employers.

In 2017, Hunt told Mainebiz the yard's economic impact was as high as $1 billion, counting secondary and tertiary effects. "It's pretty powerful, a pretty big economic engine, when you look at it, for the area," he said.

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