WARWICK, R.I. — Defense contractor General Dynamics Electric Boat will need to hire thousands more employees over the next decade as it ramps up submarine production, the company’s president said Monday.
Electric Boat President Kevin Graney met with elected officials in Connecticut and Rhode Island for an annual legislative update. The company’s headquarters is in Groton, Connecticut, and its manufacturing facility is in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.
At the Warwick, Rhode Island, meeting, Graney said the company currently has nearly 17,000 employees, of which 70 percent are based in Connecticut — a level of employment not seen since 1993.
Electric Boat will need about 20,000 employees around 2030 to build two classes of submarines. That will require hiring about 18,000 people to increase the headcount and account for attrition, he added.
Electric Boat currently builds Virginia-class fast-attack submarines under a teaming agreement with Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia.
The U.S. Navy awarded the largest shipbuilding contract in its history in December, ordering nine more attack submarines for a total of $22.2 billion.
Electric Boat says it plans to construct a new assembly facility and a floating dry dock.
Electric Boat is the prime contractor for a new class of ballistic-missile submarines, the Columbia class. Construction is expected to begin on the first ship, out of 12, in October.
With both submarine classes under construction, it will be a level of submarine production not seen since the Cold War, Graney said.
As the company has grown in recent years, some attack submarines have been delivered to the Navy late and there was a welding issue in 2018 with a subcontractor.
Electric Boat is focused on the training of new employees and supervisors to emphasize the company's culture, and reaching out to the growing supplier base to ensure quality, Graney said.
Because it will be challenging to hire the number of employees the company needs, with the right mindset and attention to detail for the work, it is doing more outreach to schools to get students interested in shipbuilding, beginning in elementary school, he added.
"It is a generational challenge when you think about what we are all doing," he said after the meeting. "We're pushing this enterprise faster than it has been pushed in 40 years. And so it is absolutely the challenge of a lifetime for anybody who's really involved with these programs."
The U.S. Navy has inked the largest shipbuilding contract in its history.
Graney seemed confident in Electric Boat’s ability to meet the challenge, saying that “failure is not an option.”
Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, who attended the meeting, promised to continue helping Electric Boat find the talent it needs, using the state's job training programs and partnerships with local schools. Rhode Island Democratic U.S. Reps. Jim Langevin and David Cicilline said they'd continue advocating for submarine funding in Congress.
"We never want to send our warfighters to a fair fight," Langevin said. "We want to make sure they absolutely have every advantage."
Graney said submarine programs are well-supported in Congress, receiving more than $11 billion in federal funding both in fiscal 2019 and fiscal 2020.