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Defense Business Brief: Shipyards need thousands of workers; Chinese company buys land near U.S. drone base; Boeing delivers 150th P-8; and more.

The U.S. added 372,000 jobs in June, unemployment is near a 50-year low, and there are more than 11 million open jobs across the country, according to the latest jobs report. As we’ve written a number of times, the defense industry is no exception to the national trends, and in some cases the demand is even higher, as the Pentagon looks to buy new ships, aircraft, and ground vehicles.

This week, we got some new data from Huntington Ingalls Industries about the demand it sees for workers at its Ingalls Shipbuilding facility in Pascagoula, Mississippi, where it builds destroyers, amphibious assault ships, and other Navy vessels. The shipyard needs to hire 2,000 new workers to meet the Navy’s demand.

Like many of the job openings across the defense sector, skilled laborers are needed. “Ingalls will be hiring pipe fitters, pipe welders, structural welders, ship fitters and seeking applicants for entry-level opportunities,” the company said of the types of workers it's looking for at a hiring event this weekend.

In addition to “competitive starting wages, day-one benefits, 12 paid holidays annually and opportunities for advancement,” the company touted the opening of a Chick-fil-A on the shipyard grounds. The inclusion of the popular chicken joint is the latest example of ways companies are looking to differentiate themselves amid a competitive job market.

Huntington Ingalls' other shipyard, Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, plans to hire 5,000 new workers this year alone. Of those, 3,000 jobs are for skilled laborers. Over the next decade, the shipyard says it needs 21,000 new employees to build Navy aircraft carriers and submarines.

“Entry-level trade positions at Newport News can pay $21-plus per hour; no experience is required, and training is provided. Candidates may be eligible for $500 sign-on bonuses and up to $1,500 for relocation,” the company said.

Fincantieri Marinette Marine, a smaller shipyard, is actively seeking “hundreds of people in Wisconsin to build the Constellation Class Frigate.”

As we’ve mentioned before, shipbuilding jobs are especially unique in the defense sector because it takes years to properly train specialty workers like welders. That’s why the large shipyards in the United States have highly popular apprentice schools for training. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh touted Newport News’ apprentice school during a May visit.

The solution to finding workers is not easy. Earlier this year, the Navy’s top admiral suggested the shipyards hire refugees, but the need for security clearances makes that difficult. 

A Chinese food manufacturer's purchase of land near Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota is sounding alarm bells in Washington, CNBC reports. “[S]ome security experts warn the Chinese corn milling plant should be stopped, because it could offer Chinese intelligence unprecedented access to the facility,” they report. Grand Forks is home to military drones and a space networking center. CNBC reported at least one AIr Force official raised concerns that signals to drones and satellites could be intercepted from the nearby farmland.

Boeing has delivered the 150th P-8 maritime patrol and reconnaissance plane. The plane, based on the commercial 737 airliner, has yet to experience a “mishap” in more than 450,000 hours of flight time, across fleets in the United States, Australia, India, United Kingdom, and Norway, Boeing said. New Zealand, South Korea, and Germany are slated to get their first P-8s in the coming years.

Weekend reading: The Government Accountability Office says the Pentagon “does not yet have a consolidated and comprehensive strategy to mitigate risks to the industrial base.” Despite spending more than $1 billion across certain sectors to mitigate risks, “DOD has limited insight into the effectiveness of these efforts and how much progress it has made addressing risks.” Read the report here.

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