Art Serpa on Professional Development

In the Early 1990s, I held the position of Department Head of the Outfitting area at Electric Boat’s Quonset Point Facility.  As I entered my 18th year of employment at Electric Boat, I was also completing my education by earning a master’s degree in industrial technology at Rhode Island College.  One of my responsibilities was to re-establish the multi-trade group of tradespeople to promote flexibility among the employees. The program had started a few years earlier but had degraded in recent times.  The original program focused on expanding a tradesperson with three more trade skills to minimize passing assisting functions to others to complete tasks.  Because Quonset Point was a nonunion establishment, there was a lot of latitude about work assignments. With this project, my goal was to establish employees who were well-versed in multiple skills and add an educational element to further promote career opportunities.   

After thoughtful planning and much consideration, we began working with the Community College of Rhode Island and together started a multi-trade apprenticeship program. This would result in Electric Boat’s mechanics becoming proficient in four diverse trades all while attending the community college classes that resulted in their associate degree in applied sciences. These classes focused on engineering, planning, and supervising. The learned skills easily enabled the participants to choose a future in business and eventually join the management team developed at Quonset Point.  

Due to our push for EB employees to further their education, many graduate apprentices became members of the management team.  They were able to expand their talents beyond trades and operations and enter the realm of planning.  We had over 120 people take part in the program between 1995 and 2002.   

When I received my master’s degree in industrial technology, I was sure to discuss in my thesis the educational program that was implemented at Quonset Point and how it was a successful example of a flexible workforce. Some time ago this program was replaced with in-house training. I still stand behind our Multi-Trade Apprenticeship Program and its ability to teach tradesmen skills that diversify their proficiency, and most importantly, push them towards higher education and personal development.   

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