GROTON, Conn. (AP) — Electric Boat, which has gone through good times and bad, is on the upswing again, looking to hire about 200 engineers and 200 designers.
In response to the demand, more than 200 job seekers attended a job fair Saturday in Groton. Prospective employees came from high schools, technical schools and colleges in Connecticut and surrounding states. Some are already working and some are sons and daughters of Electric Boat employees.
Electric Boat, a division of General Dynamics Corp., and Northrop Grumman Newport News in Virginia, together produce one $2.5 billion submarine a year. Electric Boat is seeking to slightly alter the design of Virginia-class submarines and gear up for conceptual work on a new destroyer and aircraft carrier.
The job gains represent a big change from July 2006 when Electric Boat laid off 440 employees. A few months earlier, 154 workers lost their jobs in a first round of layoffs due to a decline in submarine design, maintenance and repair work.
Submarine supporters who fought in Congress for funding for a second ship for several years scored a major breakthrough in the recently approved defense spending bill. The measure signed by President Bush in January allows the Navy to accelerate plans to double production of Virginia-class submarines to two ships a year.
The Navy had opposed moving up its plans for a second sub before 2012. But the defense bill included $588 million sought by Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., who spearheaded the effort with lawmakers from Connecticut and Rhode Island.
The $588 million allows construction of two ships a year as early as 2010 or 2011.
In addition to protecting current funding, submarine backers are seeking more money as Congress drafts a new defense spending bill. Submarine supporters want $79 million to speed up construction on a second sub. They're also seeking an additional $53 million for design work on next-generation submarines.
At the job fair, Chris Tewfik, a draftsman at Electric Boat for eight months, provided his perspective as a recent hire. He touted EB's apprenticeship program that allows new hires to rotate into all disciplines to figure out their strengths and preferences.
''A lot of them are unsure what they want to do,'' he said.
About 90 applicants were interviewed by early afternoon and 25 were offered jobs on the spot, said Robert H. Nardone, vice president of human resources.
Electric Boat doesn't typically offer incentives such as signing bonuses because prospective employees want to work at the company and they typically stay a while, he said.
The hiring push is partly intended to counter the impact of retirements among the aging work force.
The average age among Electric Boat employees is 46, so seeing many young job applicants ''is great,'' Nardone said. ''There's a lot of enthusiasm.''