Q&A: What can be done about shipyard workforce issues?

Written by Heather Ervin
Kyle Hartley, president and CEO of Integrity Staffing Services.

Kyle Hartley, president and CEO of Integrity Staffing Services.

Virginia-based Integrity Staffing Services is an independently owned and operated staffing and recruiting company focused on shipyards and ship repair yards. The company has been in the shipbuilding and repair industry since its foundation in 1995.

The founder started as a welder in the shipyard, saw the need for skilled trades, and opened Integrity Staffing Services Inc. Shipyards represent the largest segment of its business. Integrity Staffing Services also staff for heavy industrial, light industrial, hospitality, and professional positions.

To get a better understanding of what Integrity Staffing Services can offer and how they have overcome workforce challenges on behalf of shipyards, Kyle Hartley, president and CEO, sat down with us for this exclusive Q&A.

Marine Log (ML): Are shipyards in both the newbuild and repair business finding it difficult to attract and retain new talent? If so, why do you think this is and what can be done about it? 

Kyle Hartley (KH): Yes, it is a challenge for shipyards, as well as companies like us, and I think it’s for a couple reasons; one is because demand is outweighing supply. For years, there has been a skills gap because younger people were not going to trade schools and apprenticeships at the same time other tradespeople were in the twilight of their careers and aging out of their respective trade. That left a vacuum, and we are still playing catch up.

I also think some employers and shipyards have been slow to increase pay rates to a competitive level, which has left them falling short of their manning needs because good talent will often go to the highest bidder. I don’t know there is an all-encompassing answer, but I do think more emphasis on training up helpers and new trade school graduates in their trade and increasing pay rates for journeyman level tradespeople would help solve some of the talent shortages. 

ML: How can Integrity help these yards accomplish their staffing goals? 

KH: As a staffing supplier in the marine industry for almost 30 years, we are well suited to partner with companies in need of skilled labor. We have the expertise to screen and recruit qualified talent across various trades, as well as the capability to reach nationwide. That combined with the fact that we are the employer of record and handle all the risk from workers compensation, payroll, and unemployment makes us an attractive partner when trying to find the best talent and fill your labor needs.  

ML: Do you foresee these staffing challenges remaining for years to come or is this a temporary issue in your opinion? 

KH: Unfortunately, I think staffing in general is always going to be a challenge because you’re dealing with people and people can be unpredictable. However, I’m hopeful we will continue to close the gap on supply as we emphasize the importance of trade schools and competitive pay as well as continuing to bring value to our customers as subject matter experts in the field of skilled labor staffing.

ML: How many shipyards/repair facilities do you current work with? 

KH: We are consistently adding new partners to our customer base, but currently we work with 10-15 yards/customers throughout the East Coast down into the Gulf region. 

ML: What other sectors do you help with staffing solutions? 

KH: Our main verticals are commercial and marine skilled labor as well as the light and heavy industrial industry.

Categories: Q&As, Shipyards Tags: , , ,