Shipyards Across The Country Scrambling For Qualified Workers

Shipyards all over America are desperate for new workers. A recent visit to the website revealed 127 ads for shipyard laborers or workers. Starting salaries for laborers, tank cleaners or apprentices without much experience can range from $16 an hour to $35,000 a year. Most offer medical benefits. Positions requiring more experience or certifications can offer much higher pay. 

The demand is being channeled through employment and recruitment agencies. A few are part of big national outfits; most are small mom-and-pop shops located near major ports. 

The opportunities are located across the country, from Bremerton, Wash., to Norfolk, Va., to Paducah, Ky. Shipyard Staffing LLC of Norfolk, now a division of staffing company Workrise, wants workers qualified to drive a forklift.

Staffing agency Labor One is currently advertising for electricians and riggers for a shipyard in San Diego, Calif. The ad specifies that candidates must have experience with equipment such as fork trucks, cranes, wire ropes (all types), end fittings, slings, winches, chain falls, boat slings, boat davits and horizontal and vertical pad-eyes.

Joseph Trapp has been a marine labor consultant for staffing agency Tradesmen International in Paducah, Ky., for seven years. He told The Waterways Journal that spring is traditionally his company’s busy season, but now the demand for labor from shipyards is constant. “There used to be lulls, but now it’s all the time.”

The need for qualified and motivated laborers in shipyards has been ongoing for years, but that has sometimes been coupled with a desire to screen out non-motivated seekers. Trapp said current needs may be loosening that screening a bit. “There’s more of willingness [among employers] to work with people and help them see their potential in jobs like this.”

An ad for shipyard safety laborer in Portland, Ore., wants workers with a “high sense of safety awareness,” who preferably will have shown “safety demonstration in previous positions” in a previous safety environment in a shipyard—but one year of experience will do. It pays $22 to $24 an hour. 

Fincantieri Marine Group, which just dedicated a brand-new facility for building the next generation of frigates for the U.S. Navy in Marinette, Wis., also has positions open, from senior production manager to stage of construction manager.