MGCCC holds Shipfitter Boot Camp graduation

June 18, 2013

Shipfitter Bootcamp instructor Kenneth Earl Allen stands with graduate Constance Lane and Wayne Kuntz, director of Workforce Development. Lane had several job offers before graduating from the program on April 19.

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College held a graduation ceremony for 17 graduates of the Shipfitter Boot Camp on April 19 at the Advanced Manufacturing and Technology Center (AMTC) in Gulfport.  The 10-week training program is designed to prepare individuals for entry–level employment as shipfitters.  Originally, 20 participants were invited to participate in the boot camp following pre-qualification activities that included drug testing, Workkeys assessments, industry presentations, shipyard tours and interviews.

Michael Leleux, training and recruiting manager at VT Halter Marine, said the program is excellent.  “Because this curriculum was designed by industry for industry, it assures that the participants are completing training ready to begin entry-level jobs in shipbuilding and metal fabrication. It is absolutely one of the best curriculums we have ever used.”

Mark Scott, manager of workforce education at Ingalls Shipbuilding, agreed.  “There is no other training offered where those who complete the training have 100 percent placement in jobs.  We look forward to hiring the graduates of this program because we know that they are ready to do what we need them to do as employees.” Scott said that industry partners visit the classes regularly.  A job fair is offered at the end of each program so that graduates can discuss jobs with potential employers.

Kenneth Earl Allen, boot camp instructor, said the training is a cost-saving measure for industry. “The graduates of this program learn in 10 weeks what employers would have to train them in six months to a year on the job, so this is absolutely a wonderful asset for the sponsoring companies.”  Allen, a 40-year veteran of the shipbuilding industry, said the graduates gain the most from the training.  “Our students know they are leaving here with great job offers.  They have the opportunity for success in this program that few other training programs can offer.”

The Shipfitter Boot Camp is part of a larger project to develop standardized shipfitting curriculum with a portable skill certificate that is recognized by Gulf States Shipbuilders Consortium members along the Gulf Coast and can be used by schools and shipyards to train individuals on core shipfitting skills.  Local industries involved in developing the curriculum include AIDT, Alabama Technology Network, Austal USA, BAE Systems, Bollinger Shipyards, C&G Boatworks, Ingalls Shipbuilding, Signal International, Trinity Yachts, VT Halter Marine and WESCO.

Constance Lane, a graduate of the program, said she had several job offers before she had even finished training.   “I know I am going to work next week in a career I am happy to be in and for a great employer,” she said.  “Not many new graduates can say that.”

Lane, originally from Catahoula, Miss., moved to the Coast after Hurricane Katrina to do demolition and clean-up work.  “My father and brothers work in construction and that’s really the only thing I’ve ever enjoyed doing.  The construction industry has suffered in the past few years though, and I wanted to find a similar career that would allow me to work in a growing industry.  Shipfitters are always in demand, and I just love doing the work.  Mr. Allen, our instructor, was the best and always patient with us.  His enthusiasm about the shipbuilding field is contagious. I feel ready to tackle anything my new job has in store for me.”

Michael Payton, of Pearlington, feels the same.  “One of my cousins told me about the training offered at MGCCC, and I signed up immediately,” he said.  “I’m glad I did because I am already getting job offers.  That is just a great feeling.”

New shipfitter boot camps begin every few months.  Those interested in the program should apply at the WIN Job Center.

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