Submarine University Builds Relationships

Published July 19, 2022

Shipbuilders can advance their careers not only by excelling in their jobs, but by gaining a broader understanding of the people and processes around them that bring a ship to life.

With that premise in mind, 10 Newport News Shipbuilding employees recently completed two intense weeks of training in Team Submarine Program Management University. It brought together NNS employees with shipbuilders from General Dynamics Electric Boat and the Navy for a series of briefs and problem-solving sessions. The cohort consisted of 31 people.

Steve Roberts (K73), who helped coordinate this cohort, said the experience has been developed to enrich an understanding of submarine design and construction, improve business acumen and tactical and strategic leadership skills. It prepares participants to fill emerging submarine program leadership positions within the Virginia- and Columbia-class submarine programs.

This was the third cohort of shipbuilders and Navy representatives to complete the program. The first week was held at NNS; the second week was held at Electric Boat. During the weeks at NNS and Electric Boat, participants spent time learning government and shipbuilder organization and functions roles and responsibilities, submarine systems, program management and leadership skills and concepts, and went on comprehensive tours that included the NNS Foundry – which has been pouring castings since before the shipyard – to the new digital and high-tech robots used to build the most advanced submarines in the world.

Besides tours and briefs the cohort gained real value by networking across organizations and sitting down together and sharing ideas. The class broke into groups to discuss various challenges common to both shipyards, such as improving vendor performance, employee safety and workforce readiness.

Besides NNS, Electric Boat and Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), the experience also included representatives from Northrop Grumman.

Jessica Burton (K07), a program manager in the Columbia Class Program, said the university provided the opportunity to build relationships that will pay dividends going forward. It also gave participants that broader perspective of the entire submarine enterprise. She was thankful to be part of the third cohort.

“There is a secret bond and trust between the shipbuilder and submariner,” she said. “It is so important to ensure everyone understands the ‘why’ of what we do every day.”