PORT ORCHARD — The Puget Sound Naval Shipyard plans to add jobs to meet demand for scheduled maintenance and emergent repairs of U.S. military vessels.
That was perhaps the most significant message Capt. Stephen Williamson, commander of Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS) and Intermediate Maintenance Facility, delivered during a 20-minute presentation May 14 to the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Port Orchard Eagles’ club.
Williamson, who also announced he will be leaving in August to become the U.S. Pacific Fleet Officer in Hawaii, said PSNS plans to grow to 13,300 employees during the next five years. He said PSNS currently has about 12,800 employees. He has served in his current position since 2012.
Those positions include welders, electricians, pipe fitters, engineers and other trades. Williamson said PSNS also relies heavily on its apprenticeship program to fill vacancies, The program entails four years of training at Olympic College (OC) in one of the 28 skilled trades of interest at the shipyard. According to OC’s website, more than 2,500 of the shipyard’s personnel are graduates from the program.
Williamson also said PSNS will hire “every veteran who applies.” There is a caveat, though. For example, Williamson said some veterans might find the position they’ve held during their military tenure doesn’t exist at PSNS. In such an event, the veteran would need to be trained for another job. Williamson said those veterans might be hired at the lowest level on the pay scale while they are trained for a different position.
PSNS also has restructured its work environment. Williamson said workers traditionally would be divided into separate shops, such as welding, and have limited interaction with other disciplines. That was problematic, Williamson said, because one department often did not know how long it would take another to finish a project, resulting in delays. He said workers from separate departments now meet before projects begin to avoid those issues.
“The most significant thing we’re working on is the development of our people,” Williamson said.
He said his successor, who hasn’t been named, will “inherit the largest (PSNS) since World War II.” Williamson said shipyard workers will be busier with maintenance because “sailors are being deployed longer” and there are increased recycling projects than in the past. Among those projects is the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), which will need to be recycled in the coming years. The USS Enterprise, which was in service from 1962 to 2012, was the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.