MSC offers diversity and an opportunity for adventure
With shore side and afloat options, civilians assist the Navy and DoD. A diverse atmosphere and global travel are among the perks
Military Sealift Command (MSC) takes on a range of missions for the U.S. Navy and Department of Defense (DoD). Among its duties are ensuring that Navy combatant ships are equipped with food, fuel, spare parts and munitions; performing special missions like oceanographic survey, ocean surveillance and submarine escort services; and providing towing, rescue and salvage, cable laying and repair, and other service support.
MSC, currently located in Washington, DC, and Norfolk, VA, is in the process of moving most operations to Norfolk. The transition is scheduled to be complete by 2019.
Attrition opens tech jobs
Civilians at MSC can work shore side, with many opportunities to travel, or they can work afloat as civil service mariners based on one of fifty-three government-owned ships.
The shore side currently has about seventy vacancies for engineers. That number is expected to increase, since a number of MSC technical professionals are expected to decline the relocation, according to engineering director Kevin Baetsen.
“Shore side, we’re looking for general engineers, naval architects, mechanical and marine engineers, electrical engineers – primarily those associated with power generation and distribution – and systems engineers,” says Baetsen. “Candidates should be able to work as part of integrated design teams. Project management skills are essential. We also like to see people who can estimate the cost of maintenance, repair, alteration and modernization.”
About twenty shore side jobs for degreed and certified IT professionals will open up within the next year for systems administration and systems development positions.
Like the rest of the military, “We have a great need in the area of cybersecurity,” says Lynn Schug, chief information officer. “It’s getting harder to recruit in that field because we’re competing with the corporate world.”
Frank Cunningham, director of manpower and personnel for civilian mariners in afloat operations, looks for degreed professionals with U.S. Coast Guard licenses to operate merchant mariner vessels, steam diesels and gas turbines.
“We also look for refrigeration engineers, IT specialists and electricians, who don’t need specific licenses,” he notes. “We expect to bring on fifty to seventy licensed engineers and about fifty or so in unlicensed categories over the next twelve months.”
Where to find jobs
Shore side positions open to the public are posted on the USAJOBS website (www.usajobs.gov), which is operated by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
MSC’s direct recruitment efforts focus on colleges that offer appropriate engineering specialties. The OPM administers a summer internship program for college students, and this program produces about half the college grads eventually hired by MSC.
On the afloat side, degreed and licensed engineers are recruited from the country’s seven governmental maritime academies. Unlicensed professionals are also drawn from technical and vocational schools, job fairs and the DoD’s Transition Assistance Program for former military personnel.
Internal mentoring and worldwide outreach
Military veterans make up a sizable number of MSC employees both shore side and afloat. Veterans contribute to the ethnic diversity of the organization.
“The afloat side is thirty-seven percent white, twenty-nine percent Asian or Pacific Islander, twenty-five percent African American, and five percent Hispanic,” Cunningham reports.
“We do not consider race, sex, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic when we’re considering candidates for employment,” adds Baetsen.
For shore side engineers, a training and development program focuses on employees who have graduated from college within the past five years. “The program involves mentoring and rotational assignments to expose recent grads to technical opportunities across the organization,” Baetsen says. “Every quarter, several senior managers and I meet with representatives of the program to assess current candidates and keep the pipeline open.”
A mentoring program on the afloat side combines formal with informal connections, says Cunningham. “We have a promotion guide that outlines the steps required to get to the next level, whether it’s taking particular classes or passing certain tests,” he explains. “On board our ships, senior engineers and senior leadership work hands-on with our cadets and midshipmen.”
“As an organization, we do community outreach when engineers on our hospital ships go to Africa, South America and other ports to support and work on the equipment at local hospitals,” Baetsen notes. “It’s part of the overall command mission.”
“MSC is a great place to work,” says Cunningham. “There are a lot of opportunities you’d never find at other organizations.”
“For IT professionals, working for MSC is not a desk job by any stretch of the imagination. You will not be stuck in a server room somewhere,” Schug says. “At any one time I have at least five or six people on assignment sailing with our ships. If you come to work here, you are going to see the world.”
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