When he served as the commander of NWSC Carderock, Mark Vandroff woke every morning knowing that his counterpart in China had just gone to bed and had spent that day trying to make China’s Navy superior. His job, he figured, was to “get cracking and work to make our Navy even better.” Now the CEO at Fincantieri Marinette Marine (FMM), Vandroff brings that passion for navy shipbuilding – and delivering on the new USN Constellation-class frigates contract – to work every day.
In addition to the physical facilities, FMM is laser focused on growing its employee base to deliver on its military contracts. “The biggest long-term risk for our ability to execute this program is manpower,” said Vandroff. “Right now, we’re roughly 1,000 trade workers in the yard, and I need to grow that to about 1,400 over the next two years. And I probably need to add around 100 additional white-collar employees between additional engineers and additional business professionals.”
To address the need FMM is attacking the issue on multiple fronts. “We are engaged in national recruiting efforts for both blue collar and white collar employees,” said Vandroff, as well as leveraging partnerships with the State of Wisconsin, as well as educational institutions from the local high schools to the local technical and community colleges, as well as the local four-year college, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. “Their Dean of Engineering and their Dean of their Business School have both visited the yard,” said Vandroff, and both have tailored curriculum so that their engineers and business professionals both have the skills that FMM needs. If all else fails, there is outsourcing. “On previous programs we’ve given chunks of ship construction to an outsource partner,” said Vandroff. “We are exploring options to do that, additionally, on the frigate in order (if needed) to make sure that we have the right resources to build the ships at the rate the Navy needs us to build them.