The challenges that go with keeping 11,500 employee positions at Ingalls Shipbuilding filled and skilled are no doubt rare in scale in Mississippi. Add in the prospect of adding 5,000 more employees over the next 24 months and the task is truly daunting. In spite of this, the challenge of growing and incubating a successful employee pool itself is not unique, and the lessons learned from the leadership of Gulf Coast employers Chevron, Ingalls and Mississippi Power about its close partnership with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College can serve as a model of success for employers of all size across the state.
The Skills Foundation of Mississippi hosted a discussion at the office of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Business Council with leaders from Ingalls, Chevron’s Pascagoula Refinery and Mississippi Power Company as well as representatives from MGCCC to discuss this topic: what specifically makes these partnerships successful at producing the level of skilled workers needed for these coast employers?
So what is it? Let’s take a dive into some of the details.
Ingalls Shipbuilding Apprenticeships
- What skills are being trained? Shipbuilding requires a range of skills including maritime shipfitting, marine pipefitting, welding, electrical and mechanical technology
- Public/Private collaboration is constant between Ingalls – HR team and the Workforce Director at MGCCC to insure the trained products meet industry standards and enable newly trained workers to hit the ground running, starting their career paths.
- This means that a minimum of 6 months advance notice is given prior to notable upsizing or downsizing of employment numbers
- Equally important is feedback about capacity issues from MGCCC, so Ingalls can work to build up other pipelines to support needs if necessary
- Course instructors are provided by Ingalls
- The public-sector partners and educators have a “can do” attitude to assist local industry in meeting their workforce demands.
- Both Ingalls & Port of Gulfport indicated that whenever the private sector came to the table & asked for increased participation, even with increase in funding needs, MGCCC always worked to find a way to “say yes” and to figure out whatever logistical challenges may exist. With the challenges of meeting skilled workforce demands, a “can do” attitude is necessary.
- Is it attractive to students and young adults? The Apprenticeship Model allows trainees to earn wages, paid by Ingalls, during the training period. Work-based learning is a proven model for Ingalls and many others.
- What is the scale? With greater production demands, Ingalls will be scaling up its 4-yr apprenticeship program from approximately 2000 to 2400 in 2018 and 2019.
Instrumentation and Controls Academy and Process Operations Technology Program – Feeds Chevron’s Pascagoula Refinery, Mississippi Power Co., and other local employers
*95% Job Placement for these programs
Process Operations Technology
- What are the skills? Students are trained to operate complex, modern equipment in refineries, power generation facilities, chemical plants and other manufacturing processes. Local companies hiring from the program include Chevron, MS Power, and others.
- For such complex processes, where do the instructors come from?
- Instructors are typically retired Chevron operators. Having this direct line to Teachers allows Chevron to evaluate students as they progress through the curriculum.
- Where does the training take place? Facilities are provided by MGCCC with equipment provided by Chevron.
- Industry consortium regularly reviews curriculum to stay up to date with technology.
- Chevron offers a 10 Week summer Internship for High Performers (Limited Spots) which serves the role of an extended job interview.
- What is the scale? Typically, around 300 are in the 2-yr program with 40-45 entering the workforce each semester.
Instrumentation and Control Technology (I and C Academy)
- What are the skills? Students are trained to install, maintain, and repair the highly automated electrical and electronic systems operating utility systems, manufacturing facilities and petroleum refining.
- Building a modern training facility must be expensive. How was MGCCC able to get this going? MGCCC utilized an old, idle building and MS Power Co. and its vendors helped fund the renovation & purchase of equipment for what is now a first class training facility. The equipment used for training is, in many cases, exactly the equipment the students will be working with they enter the workforce.
- MS Power Co. maintains a close relationship with the program, serving on the curriculum board and providing constant feedback on training initiatives as well as needs.
- What is the scale? This 2-yr program has about 140 students enrolled, turning out 30-35 each semester into the workforce to go to work at Mississippi Power, Chevron, or another local manufacturer.
Bottom line: The employers and educators alike keenly understand their mission and the benefits of successful training programs in helping people get into good careers and helping local businesses grow. There are several notable big picture themes that run throughout these three programs, notably the heavy intertwinement and communication between the private employer and MGCCC. In all three scenarios the frequency, methods and particulars of that communication and collaboration is distinct but there is a trust that has been built which allow them to work together to maximize the programs and, as a result, the ready-to-work skilled workers from the programs. Secondly, there is a strong willingness on the part of MGCCC to extend themselves as far as possible to fill whatever needs are present in the workforce. Without that willingness to cater individual trainings to private sector requests or to put a financial stake in the success of the programs, the result would be a cookie cutter program.
Today’s industry needs highly technical and specialized workers through collaboratively designed training programs. Training programs producing generic technicians without sufficient real-world applicability is not helping our businesses or individuals. The companies involved in these programs may be larger than most, but the models are applicable to companies of any size because numerous employers share the same need – more skilled technicians. Done right, and the winner is the community and those households with higher incomes as a result.