Magazine article Techniques

Boot Camp Basics

Magazine article Techniques

Boot Camp Basics

Article excerpt

In the growing shipbuilding industry along the Gull Coast, not only is it difficult to find skilled workers to fill open positions, but the problem is also compounded because various shipyards have different definitions of what a welder or shipfitter does. To combat the issue, the Alabama Technology Network (ATN)--the state's Manufacturing Extension Partnership--led the charge to standardize the curriculum and job expectations for shipfitters and train workers to enter the profession on a last track by offering Shipfitter Boot Camps. These intensive, 10-week training events, which prepare individuals to work as entry-level shipfitters within the maritime industry, are now being adapted for use by community colleges and other training organizations across the region, and graduates are now stalling local shipyards.

The boot camps provide knowledge-based and performance-based skills training on such topics as blueprint reading, tack welding, burning and cutting, and shipfitting. They also address important soft skills like workplace ethics, effective communication and team building, and are helping to meet the work force needs of ship manufacturers along the Gulf Coast.

After Hurricane Katrina battered the Gulf Coast in late 2005, ATN led shipbuilding companies in the region to form the Gulf State Shipbuilders Consortium (GSSC) to apply for grants that would help rebuild the local maritime industry. One of the first challenges that became apparent was the shortage of skilled craft. workers in the shipbuilding and repair industry. When GSSC first convened, "we asked member shipyards which craft was most critical as far as curriculum development," says Byron Dunn. southern regional director of ATN and president of GSSC. "They indicated there was no standardized shipfitting curriculum, so we decided to take that on.

ATN and GSSC partnered to develop the curriculum and stage a boot camp to vet the curriculum and improve it before final release. While the curriculum would be built as a series of modules so that any module could stand on its own, the organizations wanted to validate and vet the entire curriculum, and a boot camp model seemed ideal. "Our plan was to develop a program that could be replicated for other industry sectors or other professions within the maritime industry," says Audrey Bandy, technology specialist at ATN. "We needed to make sure it worked well so it would be ready for adoption by community colleges or other organizations."

Developing a Winning Program

After deciding to offer a boot camp, ATN and GSSC looked across the country for best practices. Organizers found a manufacturing boot camp being used successfully in North Dakota, which became a loose model for the shipfitting program, Bandy says. With a general idea of what the final product should look like, curriculum developers dove into the project.

"This was an incredible undertaking," Dunn says. We first had to define the shipfitting job. More than once we heard, 'I know a good shipfitter when I see one, but I can't tell you what one needs to know and clo.'"

To help the team develop a clear picture of the skills and knowledge that a shipfitter has to possess, industry partners representing a number of shipyards provided subject matter experts (SMEs) to help define the job, skills, tools and knowledge required of a shipfitter. "We had to find out what tools they use and what tasks they have to perform, what terms they need to know, what math skills they need," Dunn says. "Then we had to get the SMEs to describe in detail how to perform each task. As you might expect, [the definition of a shipfitter] varied limn yard to yard."

ATN hired a curriculum writer to flesh out a rough draft of the learning modules and took it back to the SMEs for corrections and additional input. Bandy spent hours gathering images, pictures, illustrations and charts to support the material, editing, formatting and creating PowerPoint presentations. …

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