Development of a cost effective organizational model for the shipbuilding welder labor workforce
Stegelman, Michael S.
Niccolai, Marino J.
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For the past twenty-five years, the United States shipbuilding industry has experienced a slow decay in both hiring and retaining critical skilled professionals. One of the most critical skills required to fabricate a ship is welding, as welders play a major role in shipbuilding, from pre-fabrication to delivery. Many factors can be identified with the cause of this reduction in the welder workforce. These factors include technology enhancement, outsourcing, growth of optional career opportunities, and family pressure. The latter factor is identified as playing a role in reducing initial accessions within the Department of Defense. Military recruiters have been required to alter their tried and true recruitment strategies. Parents, who do not wish to see their children subjected to the violence of war or to serve within, what they perceive, as a low return on investment career, are pushing their children away from military service in favor of continued education or careers in the private sector. This phenomenon is not unlike the pressures that potential welders receive from their own families. Shipbuilding is a demanding profession, requiring a level of mental and physical toughness not necessarily found in most manufacturing industries. Under the best conditions, commercial welding is challenging; it requires manual dexterity and mental visualization skills as well as years of experience. Given the existing conditions in most shipyards, marine welding is even more challenging. These skilled craftsmen work in hot, tight, poorly-lit spaces, often working around corners with no clear line of sight to their work. Yet, the expectations of first-time, "perfect" quality is a hard requirement. For years, shipyards around the country relied upon third- and fourth-generation welders to replace their ranks caused by attrition. But due to the factors presented, these companies must employ new strategies to combat losses in its workforce. One such strategy is to better define requirements traceable to period and cumulative scope of work, and to formulate a more responsive organizational structure to meet this need so that the right number and the right skill sets can be targeted for recruiting and retention goals. This thesis identifies attributes within military organizations that could aid in the development of a similar organizational model for use in shipbuilding.
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