There's a big need for tech pros in the U.S. Navy
"We're finding talent in places we may have missed previously. We want sailors from all parts of our nation,"
says the Navy's diversity director
Big changes are underway in the U.S. Navy to make sure its service members reflect the population of the nation, says Captain Kenneth J. Barrett, head of the Navy's diversity directorate. "We've expanded to every constituency," he says.
"We've had more applications from the top markets, especially in bigger, more diverse areas. We're reaching talent that we may have missed previously, and we're making sure there are plenty of diverse people in our pool."
A significant change will take place later this year, when the Navy commissions its first group of women, eighteen of them, to serve on submarines. And recruiting efforts for U.S. Naval Academy students are also attracting a strong minority representation: thirty-six percent of the freshmen class is diverse, Barrett says. Twenty-nine percent of Naval ROTC participants are women.
The Navy is "looking for engineers everywhere," Barrett adds. Last year Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), which engineers and supports the Navy's ships and combat systems, hired 3,000 engineers, and numbers will continue to stay high. On the civilian side of the Navy there's also a strong need to bring in fresh talent to replenish the aging workforce. "We have a continued need for more engineers and scientists, and that won't change," Barrett says. Civil, mechanical and electrical engineering are all involved in working on new shipboard systems, aviation systems, weapons systems and nuclear propulsion, "areas where we need the best to keep our competitive edge."
There are plenty of opportunities for engineers in active, reserve, civilian and contract work, Barrett says. The Navy systems commands, NAVSEA and Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), plus the Office of Naval Research, are always looking for engineers to work on cutting-edge projects throughout the Navy, from civil engineers to nuclear and aeronautical engineers.
The Navy has opportunities for new grads, especially those with advanced degrees. Engineers coming in on active duty may apply for a wide array of fields; some serve on technologically advanced aircraft carriers or submarines, Barrett says.
For the past four years the Navy has focused on recruiting engineers from HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions. Also targeted are student-based organizations like the 40,000-member NSBE, along with SHPE, SWE, AISES and MAES, and conferences like the Black Engineer of the Year and National Women of Color Technology Awards. Rear Admiral Eleanor Valentin was named Technologist of the Year at that conference in 2010, Barrett notes.
Diversity is definitely a priority for the Navy, Barrett says. The Navy's Strategic Diversity Working Group, which in 2010 was named in the top ten of all diversity councils worldwide by the Association of Diversity Councils, brings together more than eighty people from throughout the Navy. "We make sure we have a coherent, consistent, compelling diversity message from the top to all the enterprises across the Navy," Barrett explains.
Vice Admiral Adam M. Robinson Jr, MD, the surgeon general of the Navy, and Vice Admiral D.C. Curtis, head of all surface ships in the Navy, are among top-ranked Navy people of diverse backgrounds.
Navy personnel can tap mentoring affinity groups such as the National Naval Officers Association, the Navy's African American sea service affinity group. And there's a very successful women's e-mentoring program which matches mentors to protégés. "You put in profile information based on what you are looking for to find a mentor," Barrett says.
In large markets like Norfolk, VA and San Diego, CA that have a strong Navy presence, community volunteerism is a priority. Service members work in Adopt-a-School programs, for example, and children are brought in to tour technologically-advanced Navy ships. They sometimes meet the pilots who fly Navy aircraft, too, and "Those officers are rock stars!" Barrett says.
"We've found that a lot of times the kids have no idea of the types of things they can do in the Navy," Barrett notes. "We get them excited about math and science and show them they can apply these skills in the Navy."
"We go after the same base of clever, diverse techies that IBM and Lockheed and Northrop Grumman and Boeing are looking for. We want to make sure they also understand the opportunities available to them in the Navy!"
members, reservists and
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