Mobile's Austal Shipbuilding hiring hundreds

MOBILE, AL (WLOX) - By Doug Walker – bio | email

MOBILE, AL (WLOX) - Hundreds of calls come in every day at Austal Shipbuilding in Mobile. Keeping track of them is a big job for receptionist Johnna Farmer.

"Ninety-five percent of the calls we get are routed to human resources," Farmer said. "People want to know how they can get trained for a position. They want to know how to get a job."

With hundreds of jobs becoming available, it's no wonder the phone rings off the hook. The shipbuilder recently signed a $3.7 billion contract with the Navy for up to nine more LCS Littoral warships.

The workers who build those ships make a very nice living. Donald Keeler is the vice president of human resources.

"We're going to be in the top tier with regards to both compensation and benefits," Keller said.  "The pay is going to be for a fully skilled individual. Pay is going to be more than $20 an hour and the benefits are extremely attractive."

Mississippians already play a major role at Austal, despite the commute.  James Woods lives in Jackson County.

"It's well worth it for me. I enjoy working here and I don't mind the ride. It's an easy ride, all interstate."

With 2000 jobs coming on line at Austal in the next couple of years, Jackson County Mississippi is going to play role in filling some of those jobs.  Keeler said reaching across state lines for more workers makes sense.

"We would be pleased to have people from Jackson County, Mississippi, or Mississippi generally come to us seeking employment," Keller said.  "We have about 120 Mississippians now on our payroll, most of them hired in this past year."

George Freeland heads up economic development in Jackson County.  This economic marriage comes as no surprise to him.

"The Mobile area and the Jackson County area, which included George County and Baldwin Counties, have for decades now been part of the same labor shed," Freeland said.  "Be it within shipbuilding, shipbuilding technology or other traditional sectors such as petrochemical."

And Woods said that partnership means one thing.

"The only way to go is up."

Company officials said about 500 people will be hired in the next few months, with additional hires being added on as more ships enter the construction phase.  If all nine ships are built, the work at the shipyard will continue through 2018.

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