National Steel & Shipbuilding Co., one of San Diego's largest employers and the West Coast's largest shipyard, has been awarded a $500,000 state grant to retrain and find new jobs for hundreds of its workers, Mayor Maureen O'Connor announced Friday.
She said the retraining and job placement project, called the Nassco Re-employment Project, will help meet the needs of more than 1,000 employees who have lost jobs since January.
The project is expected to help 400 workers find new jobs and new careers within six months, according to O'Connor, who is chairwoman of the city-county Regional Employment and Training Consortium, which oversees government-funded job training in San Diego County.
In April, staff members of the Private Industry Council and RETC first began meeting with representatives of Nassco to discuss the job losses. The $500,000 grant was obtained from the state Job Training Coordinating Council, which advises Gov. George Deukemejian on job training matters.
Services to the workers will be provided by the Re-employment Center of the Private Industry Council, which shares local job training oversight responsibility with RETC under the federal Job Training Partnership Act. The center will provide immediate counseling, skills assessment and job search assistance services to the workers before either referring them directly to new jobs if they are immediately employable or into retraining programs if they need to acquire new skills.
Nassco President Richard Vortman said the U.S. shipbuilding industry is at its lowest point in the last 50 years. He said Nassco has typically employed 4,500 to 7,500 workers, and that he expects the work force to decline to 2,000 by the end of the year. If no other major construction contract is obtained, the company will be forced to shrink the force to 1,000 workers, he added.
He said the company has had to lay off craftsmen as well as engineers, supervisors and administrators.