The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is embarking on a major hiring spree, with plans to add more than 700 engineers, technicians, shipfitters, fabricators and others to its operation in the coming year.

Recruitment for the 715 positions will occur throughout the current federal fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, shipyard officials said Thursday. Job postings for the open positions can be found online at, they said.

The hiring bonanza is good news for both the Kittery-area economy and workers who have lost their jobs recently in Maine in the wake of paper mill shutdowns and other layoffs and business failures.

The workforce expansion is needed to keep up with the shipyard’s projected workload for overhauling nuclear submarines, and to make up for about 200 expected openings because of workers retiring or leaving to take other jobs, shipyard commander Capt. William Greene said in a news release.

“The shipyard’s hiring plan is based on attrition and increased workload challenges,” Greene said. “Taking into account planned attrition, we will grow our workforce from approximately 4,700 to 5,200 civilian employees.”

He said the success of the hiring plan is a top priority because it is critical to the shipyard’s ability to execute its mission over the next few years. The shipyard’s primary mission is to maintain, modernize and repair Navy attack submarines.


Shipyard spokeswoman Libby Morin said via email that the hiring is to accommodate an increased workload that is consistent with the Navy’s scheduled maintenance plan for Los Angeles Class and Virginia Class submarines. The Naval Sea Systems Command said in October that federal budget wrangling last year had contributed to significant maintenance delays for the Navy’s fleet of nuclear submarines.

Situated on an island in Kittery, the Navy shipyard has a workforce that is divided about evenly between Maine and New Hampshire residents. With over $450 million in annual civilian and military payroll, it is one of the largest economic engines in the region, according to shipyard officials.

The shipyard plans to hire more than 100 engineers and roughly 25 administrative personnel. The remaining positions will be filled through the shipyard’s Trades Apprenticeship and Workers Skills Progression programs, officials said. Both programs offer on-the-job training.

According to, the skills progression program pays a starting wage of $17.32 to $20.19 an hour. No wage information is listed for the apprenticeship program.

Available jobs through the programs include “shipfitters, plastic fabricators, shipwrights, outside machinists, pipefitters, temporary services (piping and electrical), sheet metal, welders, electricians and riggers,” the news release said.

Economist Charles Lawton, whose company Planning Decisions Inc. is based in nearby York, said the sudden surge in demand for such workers will boost the area’s economy and is a positive development for anyone with the desired skills.


“Hopefully it will attract people to the area and certainly put upward pressure on the wage rates,” said Lawton, chief economist at the consulting firm.

The shipyard’s competitive wages are likely to attract skilled workers from other companies and organizations, pressuring those employers to raise their wages as well, he said. It also will be a boon to local community colleges and other learning institutions that teach the types of skills needed at the shipyard and other businesses doing similar work.

“I think it’s a boost in the arm for all kinds of worker training,” Lawton said.

John Carr, a representative for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said the mass hiring also could benefit laid-off workers at the former Verso Paper mill in Bucksport, which ceased operations Wednesday. About 500 people lost their jobs.

Carr said the vast majority of Verso workers did not live in Bucksport and instead commuted there from across the state, with some even bunking together in apartments during the work week.

Given their wide geographic distribution and willingness to travel, former Bucksport mill workers are likely candidates for many of the shipyard jobs, he said. Several already have obtained jobs at Bath Iron Works since the Verso layoffs were announced, Carr said.


“Yeah, Portsmouth might not be out of the question for a good amount of folks,” he said.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

Twitter: jcraiganderson

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