DoD Launches First Project MFG Maritime-Focused Welding Competition

DEC. 08, 2021 | News

The Department of Defense’s Office of Industrial Policy, through its Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment (IBAS) program, partnered with the U.S. Navy’s Program Executive Office for Strategic Submarines (PEO SSBN) to co-host the first Project MFG maritime-focused welding competition on November 9 at the Philly Shipyard Welding Academy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Project MFG, led by RD Solutions, LLC, is a series of interdisciplinary team competitions, sponsored by the IBAS program, designed to promote the prestige of manufacturing and inspire individuals to enter the manufacturing sector.

This competition was held in conjunction with another IBAS program/PEO SSBN-funded effort—the “Philadelphia Region Workforce Pipeline Project” Career Discovery and Recruiting event, where roughly 80 students pursuing careers in disciplines such as welding, machining, fitting, and electrics, cheered on their schools and used the opportunity to interview with nine defense maritime sector employers supporting the Columbia and Virginia-class submarine programs. The Philadelphia Region Workforce Pipeline pilot project, led by Training Modernization Group (TMG), Inc., aims to energize and engage the greater Philadelphia region by creating and sustaining a defense-focused workforce pipeline designed to meet the defense maritime system production and sustainment requirements for highly specialized trade skills, now and in the future.

As the first wave of the 32 student competitors completed welding their challenge pieces, attendees from local, state, and federal government; industry; and academia gathered around several key speakers during the lunch break. Speakers at this event included U.S. Congresswoman, the Honorable Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA 5th District); RADM Scott Pappano, PEO SSBN; Mr. Matt Sermon, Executive Director, SSBN; Ms. Adele Ratcliff, IBAS Program Director; Mr. Joe Barto, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, TMG, Inc.; Mr. Randy McCullough, Chief Human Resource Officer, Rhoads Industries; and a CTE program graduate and welder from DC Fabricators. Each of them offered valuable insights on the current state of U.S. manufacturing and words of encouragement to the students.

RADM Pappano addressed the students by stating that “all of you are doing something bigger than yourself.” He added that, “We lack the people to build our Navy’s next generation submarines and ships. We, as the U.S. Government can buy all these weapons systems, but we can’t build them without the people. That’s why we need you right now.”

The event wrapped up with the second wave of student competitors completing their challenge pieces as the attendees convened for the awards ceremony. The first and second place winners, Mr. Cooper Davis and Mr. Blake Pfeiffer, respectively, were from Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and the third place winner, Ms. Allison Kutzler was from Welder Training and Testing Institute of Allentown, Pennsylvania.

DoD representatives thanked the students and instructors from the following CTE programs for their participation: Benjamin Franklin High School (HS), Thomas A. Edison HS, Jules Mastbaum HS, Randolph Career Academy, Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, York School of Technology, Lehigh Career Technical Institute, and the Welding Training & Testing Institute. They also thanked the following employers/recruiters for helping the students navigate potential employment opportunities: Rhoads Industries, Philly Shipyard, QED Systems, Kingsbury, Metals USA, DC Fabricators, NAVSUP, PRL Inc., and Cleveland Cliffs.

“It was an honor to witness the diverse group of young men and women from the regional high school and community college CTE programs fearlessly demonstrating their welding skills against a Navy-themed challenge—a mini submarine model,” said Ms. Ratcliff. “These students are not only the hope for the local Philadelphia community, but they are also the hope for our nation’s future to fill the critical industrial skills gaps and change the perception and demographics of manufacturing.”

For additional information on this, and other IBAS projects, please email the IBAS team at

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