With plans to hire 1,000 workers in the next 18 months, some 700 of them right now, Austal USA has set a hiring fair for Saturday, Jan. 28.
The industrial powerhouse on Mobile’s waterfront will open the gates from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., allowing interested people to see the plant, talk with workers and apply on the spot. Those attending should bring an ID and a resume.
“We need to fill about 1,200 jobs to keep growing,” said Austal USA President Rusty Murdaugh, adding, “It takes an entire community to build great ships for the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard.”
Murdaugh said 60% of the job openings are for people in technical trades — welding, fitting and such — and the other 40% in professional roles, including engineering.
Adding the workers will return Austal very close to its peak employment of about 4,300 workers. Right now, it has 2,800 workers, some building the aluminum-hulled ships the firm has crafted since it opened and some building steel-hulled ships on the steel shipbuilding line that opening in 2022.
Production efficiencies allowed the company to decrease its workforce by attrition, Murdaugh said, but with $4 billion in project backlogs it’s time to ramp up employment
Speaking at a press conference to announce the hiring fair, Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson talked about the firm’s reputation for building ships on time and on budget, adding, “We all believe in Austal,” and predicting that “Mobile will be known again one day as the epicenter of shipbuilding in America.”
County Commission Chair Connie Hudson noted that the company has grown exponentially from its beginnings with a double-wide trailer and 100 employees. It now has a $400 million payroll.
Austal’s announcement Monday comes less than a year after nearby Airbus announced plans to hire some 1,200 more workers and just weeks after Peak North America announced plans to hire 175 people.
Bradley Byrne, former U.S. representative from south Alabama and now president and CEO of the Mobile Chamber, said the group is working to attract talent to the Mobile area.
“The people we are looking for this expansion don’t grow on trees,” Byrne said. “We’re going to have to go out and get them from a lot of different places” and calling for a “community effort” to attract the needed workers.
The chamber has a new website, moretomobileal.com, that is designed to attract people to Mobile County and its jobs, Byrne said.
The group is specifically targeting regions of the country where people have the skill sets needed here, he said. Once the people are found, he noted, the company and the chamber will team with local schools, the University of South Alabama, Bishop State and Coastal Alabama community colleges and AIDT, the state’s workforce development group, to make sure they have the skills they need.
“We know that this is a challenge, but we are more than up to the challenge,” Byrne said.