top of page


GSSC's 11th Annual Conference focused on commitment--commitment to developing and growing the talent pipeline, commitment to the future of the shipbuilding and ship repair industry, and commitment to the advancement of GSSC. The conference theme, Cross the Line: Choose to Commit, resonated throughout the two-day event.  

Photo Gallery
Related Links

GSSC's 11th Annual Conference was held April 24-25, 2018, at the Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza Hotel in Mobile, Alabama.

In keeping with the theme:  Cross the Line: Choose to Commit, this year's meeting focused on commitment--commitment to developing and growing the talent pipeline, commitment to the future of the shipbuilding and repair industry, and commitment to the advancement of GSSC. 


With this in mind, the conference brought executive insights from industry leaders committed to workforce development. Presenters committed to meeting the needs of the industry and bridging skills gaps shared innovative training models and programs. A tour of an innovative training facility committed to training craft professional for the industry that is shared by AIDT and Austal USA exemplified  "crossing the line" in terms of state support. Attendees also had an opportunity to get engaged during a panel presentation represented by various trade associations and shipyards in an effort to provide direction as GSSC recommits to fulfilling its mission of workforce development and advancing the organization.

Highlights - Day 1

  • For the opening keynote, Don Keeler, Vice President of Human Resources at Austal USA brought executive insights related to his company's commitment to workforce development, the skilled talent challenge, and the crisis among middle-skilled workers. Keeler also discussed Austal's strategy for meeting these challenges. Keelers' charge was to align groups with similar workforce interests, an achievable task through GSSC.

  • Fred Howell, Manager of Talent Acquisition at Ingalls Shipbuilding, shared the company's award winning, nationally recognized, replicable model, Veteran Hiring Done Right, a successful recruitment and promotion program.

  • Tim Johnson, Executive Director of the National Maritime Education Council, shared a white paper Shipbuilding and Repair: The Workforce Imperative that outlines the industry's workforce challenges, provides a national workforce system solution, and presents a three-year funding proposal that would accelerate the development of that system.

  • John Havlik, Workforce Development Manager at NCCER, shared how NCCER's streamlined training and credentialing processes and introduced new resources to advance companies' workforce development efforts.

  • Representatives from AIDT and Austal USA hosted tours of the innovative maritime training facility shared by the two organizations. 


Highlights - Day 2

  • Walter Siegenthaler, Executive Vice President of Max Daetwyler Corporation, shared the awarded-winning Apprenticeship 2000 model, a program that allows smaller companies partner together to offer a structured apprenticeship program to high schools students to help fill the labor gap.

  • In his presentation, Developing a Strong Workforce Pipeline, Jeff Lynn, Alabama Community College System Vice Chancellor Workforce and Economic Development, highlighted programs implemented across the state, focusing on MSSC and NCCER for dual enrollment and regular programs in an effort to build a robust talent pipeline that meet the needs of business and industry.

  • In his presentation, Changing Lives, Ryan Blythe, Founder of the Georgia Trade School, one of the top welding schools in the nation, shared how he successfully launched a welding school in suburban American where high school students and their parents are predisposed to choose a college pathway.  Recruiting students from across the nation, Ryan offered strategies for changing perceptions among parents and connecting with Generation Z when trying to recruit students and workers.

  • Executives from the American Welding Society, Mississippi Manufacturers Association, and Virginia Ship Repair as well as shipyard representatives from Bollinger Shipyards and Gulf Copper shared their insights regarding adding value to GSSC's membership. 

  • Edmond Hughes, Vice President of Human Resources & Administration at Ingalls Shipbuilding, closed out the two-day event with the keynote, What You Do Today Matters. Hughe's provided insights related to how his organization is committed to a culture that promotes workforce development and how the industry's workforce development efforts today impact the future talent pipeline. 


Plenty of networking opportunities and an Exhibitor Expo rounded out the two-day event. 

2018 Navigator Award Presentation

Byron Dunn, 2018 GSSC Navigator Award Recipient

GSSC's 2018 Navigator award was presented to Byron Dunn, founding president of GSSC.  The Navigator Award is presented annually to an individual who has displayed outstanding leadership or made other significant contributions to the development of the maritime workforce.


Jeff Allman, GSSC's newly elected president, said of this year's recipient, "Thinking about our conference theme, Crossing the Line:  Choose to Commit, Byron epitomizes what it means to commit.  Leading a newly-formed regional association with 8 charter members, Byron envisioned a standardized workforce system for the industry.  Under his leadership, GSSC developed the industry's first standardized structural fitter curriculum and a replicable boot camp model that delivered 100 percent employment and launched a national organization committed to fulfilling his vision on a national scale." 


Congratulations, Byron and thank you for your years of service and your contributions to the advancement of GSSC and to the shipbuilding and ship repair industry!

Thanks to our Sponsors!

GSSC's annual conference would not be possible without the support of our sponsors.

Save the Date

Fall Meeting

October 11-12, 2018

Details to follow.

bottom of page