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Blumenthal: Electric Boat apprenticeship program in jeopardy

GROTON --  Electric Boat expects to hire 14,000 new workers over the next 10 years as they build Virginia and Columbia class submarines for the United States Navy.

But in order to achieve this, Electric Boat is counting on federal funding to sustain and grow its apprenticeship program.

As a member of the Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) wants to make certain the Electric Boat apprenticeship program succeeds. Friday, he shadowed apprentices enrolled in Electric Boat's job training program.

Blumenthal calls Electric Boat employees the best workforce in the world.

"They produce the best submarines ever known to man and one of the strategic weapons platforms that is essential to our national defense," said Blumenthal.

He says he met with Electric Boat employees, who've worked anywhere from four weeks to 40 years for the defense XL tractor.

"More work and more retirements mean we need to train more people," said Blumenthal, who added that Electric Boat's apprenticeship program is not a luxury or a convenience. He wants President Trump to know it's a necessity.

"The administration has talked about cutting the program entirely," Blumenthal said.

He begins his fight in Washington next month for an additional $5.5 million to grow Electric Boat's apprenticeship program.

"The men and women, who work at Electric Boat, are as important to our national defense as the men and women in uniform," Blumenthal says.

And, he believes the key is educating fellow members of congress.

"My colleagues understand how critical submarines are," said Blumenthal. "They do not yet understand how critical the training is for the men and women who make them."

Blumenthal said this should be thought of as an investment rather than an additional expense.

The Electric Boat subject matter will be part of the National Defense Authorization Act, which will be discussed when Congress is back in session next month.