The BOAT for Women is a free career-exploration program for women who may be looking to learn more about the marine trades. The program is offered by General Dynamics Electric Boat and sponsored by Real Jobs Rhode Island. Electric Boat Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Elicia Spearman spoke with PBN about the program.
PBN: How long has General Dynamics Electric Boat been offering the program?
SPEARMAN: The BOAT for Women has been offered since July of 2019 and has impacted 48 women. Three sessions have been conducted, with additional sessions scheduled for Feb. 4 and May 5. Our February session is full, but there are still openings for May. People who are interested in participating should contact Heather Lee at (401) 268-3469.
PBN: How did organizers choose the topics that will be discussed?
SPEARMAN: In order to meet the expanded needs of the U.S. Navy, Electric Boat is projected to hire thousands of tradespeople over the next decade. We selected trades based on our future hiring demands. Trades taught at New England Institute of Technology are welding, shipfitting and machining. The trades taught at the Community College of Rhode Island at the Westerly Education Center are maritime pipefitting, maritime electrical and sheet-metal mechanic.
PBN: Are the sessions geared specifically toward career-changers?
SPEARMAN: Women from all backgrounds and age groups, ranging from 19 to 60 years old from across the state have applied for the BOAT program. The sessions are geared toward women across the career spectrum: career-changers, women reentering the workforce and those looking to begin their careers who don’t know where to start. The goal is to expose women to the manufacturing industry and career opportunities at Electric Boat. We wanted to give women an opportunity to explore nontraditional occupations while working under the guidance of professionally trained and skilled instructors.
PBN: Who are the instructors for the free classes?
SPEARMAN: All instructors are college-affiliated teachers. Most of the instructors are past or current Electric Boat employees and/or experts in their field. Electric Boat works very closely with both institutions to review curriculum and support the institutions in any way we can.
PBN: What do you think surprises women most about working in the trades once they’ve made the switch or started in a trade industry right out of school?
SPEARMAN: Women seem surprised by the number of women that are already working in the trades at Electric Boat and are genuinely pleased by how interesting they find the trades. During the tours of the shipyard and facilities, they have asked their female tour guides questions about working in a male-dominated industry. This knowledge-sharing has given them the confidence to pursue careers at Electric Boat.