News Column

27 to graduate from career-starting internships at Electric Boat

August 22, 2014

By Paul Edward Parker, The Providence Journal, R.I.



Aug. 22--For many teenagers, "summer job" conjures up images of sitting in a lifeguard's chair or flipping burgers somewhere or chasing young kids around a summer camp.

Not so for Justin Pelletier.

The 16-year-old from East Providence has spent his summer assembling a weapons launch system that will one day control missiles and torpedoes in the Navy nuclear submarine USS Indiana.

The soon-to-be senior at the Met School in Providence landed a summer internship at General Dynamics Electric Boat'sQuonset Point shipyard.

"It's sort of a little adrenaline being in here," Pelletier said, realizing that he's working on a weapons system that's used in America's defense.

Pelletier is one of 27 people who are taking part in three separate internship programs at the submarine builder this summer: ones for high school students, military veterans and inner-city residents.

The interns will take part in a graduation ceremony Friday afternoon at the nearby O Club, but they probably won't be saying goodbye to Electric Boat at that point, at least not for long. The company hopes to hire all those who complete an internship, according to company spokesman Gregory A. Rose. So far, about three-quarters of interns have gone on to full-time employment since the program began in 2012.

Take Saulo Delacruz, 20, of Pawtucket.

Delacruz was born in Pawtucket, but moved to Puerto Rico as a toddler. He didn't return to his native city until he was 14. A high school dropout, he earned his equivalency diploma through a Comprehensive Community Action Program.

"They told me there was an opportunity coming up for the internship," Delacruz said during an interview in his workshop at Electric Boat.

Before that, he had never considered working there. "I didn't even know the company existed."

Now, "I'm looking forward to a career in here," he said.

"If they don't hire this kid, they're all fools," said Martin Conroy, an Electric Boat employee who has been teaching Delacruz how to prepare pipes for installation in submarines. Conroy has been at the company three years, after his benefits as a Central Falls Fire Department retiree were cut when that city went through bankruptcy.

The internship program helps recruit workers and, to a small degree, addresses the so-called "skills gap" in Rhode Island -- many applicants lack the skills needed in modern manufacturing, which relies on computers and other advanced technology that increases productivity.

"We are very sensitive to the traditional 'dingy' image of manufacturing jobs, and it is one of our goals to change that image," spokesman Rose said in an email. "The internship programs can certainly have an impact upon that. When the interns come into our plant, they work in clean, orderly shops; they see the advanced manufacturing technology that we have introduced to our processes, and perhaps most importantly, they experience the rigorous safety programs that we have in place throughout our facility. To the extent that they carry that image and message back to their schools and communities, that helps us change the image of manufacturing over time. A lot more work needs to be done in the image department, but this is certainly a help."

As far as the skills gap is concerned, the internship programs have a limited effect. The programs provide training -- two weeks in company classrooms, the rest of the summer working in the shipyard -- that will leave interns ready to work when they start full-time. But they don't address the larger question of finding qualified applicants.

"The skills gap is a very real thing that has impacted the hiring at Electric Boat," Rose said. "We have had to do a lot of additional training to address this." The company is also working with government agencies, such as the Department of Labor and Training and the Governor's Workforce Board, and with schools, including the Community College of Rhode Island and the New England Institute of Technology, to improve worker-training programs.

You could have counted Delacruz in that untrained group before he started his internship in Electric Boat's pipe shop. Although he watched an employer do plumbing work at an earlier construction job, Delacruz said, "this is the first time having the pipes in my hand."

___

(c)2014 The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.)

Visit The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.) at www.projo.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


For more stories covering the world of technology, please see HispanicBusiness' Tech Channel



Source: Providence Journal (RI)


Story Tools






HispanicBusiness.com Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters