Shipyard Management Major Now Offered at USMMA

Friday, November 12, 1999
As head of the United States Merchant Marine Academy's (USMMA), engineering department, Professor Jose Femenia noted 1995 as the year in which the Academy's shipyard management program was loosely formatted. It was through his efforts the program became a reality one year later. Beginning with a focus on ship maintenance and repair, several elective courses had been developed - such as ship maintenance and repair, and shipyard design and operations - but were not yet part of a fully formalized agenda. In turn, these electives led to the birth of the Academy's shipyard management program. This blend of marine engineering, industrial engineering and engineering management, which is comprised of two stems - ship repair and ship construction, "focuses on how to manage and run a shipyard," according to Femenia, who was hired as engineering department head in 1995 and also serves as president of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME). Although classroom instruction may be the core portion of an enrolled student's learning experience, the program is unusual because of its additional requirement - students must complete a six-week internship before entering their senior year, but not before fulfilling their sea year requirement. An instrumental force with this aspect is XXXXXXX Butman - the program's founder and whose drive is to see his students succeed both in and out of the classroom. In addition to teaching various courses, he assists his students in garnering internships and often confers with noted shipyards such as National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) in San Diego and Atlantic Marine in Mobile, Ala., both of which are avid supporters of the program. "Our kids are getting tremendous experience by bringing the combination of spending time at sea with the knowledge related to a shipyard," Butman said. Various shipyards throughout the U.S. typically accept two to five interns a year from the Academy, enabling students to gain experience of working at a real shipyard - as well as utilizing skills they have absorbed from their coursework. Upon completion of the internship, students are required by the Academy to submit a comprehensive report outlining their daily activities and summarizing everything they learned throughout their experience. The two yards with the most exposure to this program, Atlantic Marine and NASSCO, take the program a step further with structured formatting, where students receive mentors who guide them through their daily workday. According to Katherine Chumley, human resources director for Atlantic Marine's Mobile facility, the program offers "a well-balanced approach to what kinds of jobs that will be available to students when they graduate." In fact, according to Chumley, of the students who have been hired from the Academy by Atlantic in the past three years, 50 percent were those who held internships with the yard. "Our program is one that is well-rounded and designed to correspond with the students' curriculum," Chumley said. Atlantic's program also incorporates weekly lunch meetings giving students the opportunity to voice their concerns and thoughts to their supervisors. "The weekly lunches give students the opportunity to provide their mentors with feedback so they can make sure they are learning and getting the experience they need," Chumley added. Jenny Darnell is a 1997 USMMA graduate who completed her internship at Atlantic. When it was time to apply her skills into the real world, Darnell was offered (and accepted) a position in the yard's planning department as a production planner. Although the formalized shipyard management program had not yet been established for her class, Darnell was still able to take everything she learned from the courses she took at the Academy and worked them into her position at Atlantic Marine. "You need a basic understanding of how a shipyard works and what is involved to get a project done," said Darnell, who was recently promoted to project coordinator. "Whether it's a repair or building job, knowing how to deal with the work process and all the people involved on various levels is important." Although Jason Perusek, USMMA Class of 1999, is pursuing a different path outside the shipyard world, the Chardon, Ohio resident found himself in the midst of a quite favorable experience during his internships at NASSCO and Solar Turbines. "This is one of the first times these students will get to work in a shipyard," said Karin Hagen, internship coordinator at NASSCO. "They are exposed to all our departments. Managers work with them and allow them to observe and participate in meetings and do their best to assign them meaningful projects." For a 14-week period, sometimes putting in 16-hour days, he worked at NASSCO during the day, Solar Turbines at night and on weekends, and still managed to develop a palm-top computer and bar code technique designed and created for NASSCO's inspection department. The futuristic device, which Perusek presented to the yard's various department heads - including the vice-president of production and finance - was developed for the purpose of performing quicker and easier inspections, thus allowing the process to become completely electronic, rather than using the conventional paper method. Perusek credits his classroom experience as well as his motto of always going above and beyond what is required of him, to his successful run at NASSCO. "It's amazing how much I already knew when I got there because of the projects I worked on in class," he said. "It was a real asset to have that valuable experience." In addition to the opportunity that students get to spend at the yards, they also gather a taste of the real world from the classroom through the program's final Capstone Project, which must be completed by the end of their senior year. The project, designed to give students a view of the "big picture" of just what goes into the design, construction and repair of a ship, is a valuable learning tool. This year's construction class projects are a design of a shipyard overhaul of a ship and an oceanographic research vessel. Upon being divided into their respective groups, students subdivide the various tasks that must be put into the project such as market analysis, cost estimate and design work instructions. In fact, a project report schedule with due dates is distributed to each student from the very first day, so each group can organize its tasks in an orderly fashion. But perhaps the most desirable function of the Capstone Project is just who gets to see the finished project. Of course, the students present their finished wares to their classmates and professors, but the greatest audience are the various shipyard executives and port engineers who are invited by Butman to witness possible future engineers at their respective yards, first-hand. The projects are usually presented to the executives during late-winter, and according to Butman, many of his students had not one, but two or three job offers by the end of March-early April. "A big advantage of this program," Butman said, "is the positive feedback students receive from companies." According to the Academy, of the 29 members of the Class of 1999, most did indeed have job offers by the predicted time, and moving back to 1998, approximately 50 percent of that group went on to work for various U.S. shipyards. As impressive as these figures may seem, they are not foreign to the Academy in terms of job availability/offers. According to a report of employment statistics dated July 15, 1999 by the Academy's Office of Professional Development, 163 students of this year's class of 180, were currently employed within some aspect of the maritime industry. Two classes offered to graduating seniors of the program include Engineering Design Management taught by Prof. John Tuttle, and Engineering Economics led by Butman. Tuttle, whose class focuses on the preparation and presentation of students' final Capstone Project, discusses the focal points, architecturally speaking, of what needs to be incorporated into the design of the ship. Butman, on the other hand, gives students a sampling of the economic side of the design project. In speaking with several seniors present in class that day (all of which completed their internships), the majority were enthusiastic and well-informed in regards to their thoughts of the program - as well as their plans for the future. Contrary to popular belief, women do have a formidable place within the shipyard industry, says Kellie Redcay, a 21-year-old senior who hopes one day to hold an upper-level management position at a shipyard. Redcay, who hails from Reading, Pa., completed her internship this past June at Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon, Wis., where she worked on repairs and new construction. "At first I didn't know what to expect when I got there, but I soon realized things at Bay ran rather smoothly - it was a relaxing, family atmosphere," she said. Spending eight to ten hours a day at the yard, the future shipyard executive was treated "more as a regular full-time employee rather than an intern" by her co-workers. Redcay recalls one specific project she was asked to manage when unforeseen changes cropped up. "We were working on a dredger contract and at the last minute the owner made some changes, I was then asked to figure out the cost-estimate based on his changes," she said. Other students praised the numerous job offers alumni have received in the past. "The shipyard management program provides good connections because most everyone is guaranteed a job placement upon graduation," said senior, Jeff Benton. Sometimes working on eight to ten jobs at one time, Benton, 20, whose hometown is Indianapolis, Ind., recently finished his internship at Baltimore Marine Industries (BMI), where he worked in the yard's ship's management and machinery departments. "At BMI, I was able to see the big picture through planning and estimation," Benton said. "I got the opportunity to act as a liaison between the shipyard and port engineer." Another member of the senior class, Elizabeth Nicoletti, 21, had an experience that was similar to Benton's - she too, gained a "big picture" sight of the shipyard world. Nicoletti, who fulfilled her internship requirement at Tacoma, Wash.-based Northwest Marine Industries, worked on the design foundations for ships and even had the opportunity to be a part of the construction process for a major ongoing project at the yard - the new Jaws ride planned for Universal Studios Japan. "I was involved with everything from managing and designing sketches, to scheduling and planning," Nicoletti said. She added the time she spent at sea had a major influence on her understandings of a shipyard throughout her internship. "You need to know your way around a ship and how it works," Nicoletti said. "I wouldn't have known if I hadn't been to sea."
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