RCN occupations restructured to better support future fleet

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Crowsnest - Spring 2017 / April 26, 2017

By Darlene Blakeley

Occupations within the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) are currently being restructured to better prepare for future ships as the navy begins the largest peacetime fleet recapitalization of its modern history.

The National Shipbuilding Strategy will see the introduction of three new classes of ship to the existing fleet of Kingston, Victoria and modernized Halifax-class platforms. In support of Commander RCN’s intent and guidance, this new RCN will require modernized and flexible naval occupations. As a result, a realignment of non-commissioned member (NCM) occupations to prepare for manning future fleet platforms needed to be undertaken.

Prior to this realignment, the Combat Systems Technician Occupational Analysis (OA) study commenced in the fall of 2003 and was conducted in conjunction with a broader study looking at the implementation of career fields in the RCN. The study looked to create a new occupation that grouped five legacy occupations together: Naval Weapons Technician; Naval Electronics Technician - Acoustic; Naval Electronics Technician - Communications; Naval Electronics Technician - Tactical; and Naval Electronics Technician - Manager.

This resulted in the creation of the Weapons Engineering Technician occupation that stood up September 1, 2011.

The next OA restructured the Marine System Engineering occupations of Marine Engineer and Electrician Technician, beginning in the fall of 2014, with Marine Engineering Systems Operator joining the study in January 2015 and Hull Technician in September of that same year.

“The purpose of the OA was to develop an occupational structure that is best able to support Commander RCN’s priorities of ensuring excellence in operations at sea; enabling the transition to the future fleet; evolving the ‘business of our business’; and energizing the institution,” explains Commander Luc Tremblay, Director Naval Personnel and Training 3.

As part of the OA, the legacy occupations were reviewed to determine the tasks they performed and evaluate commonalities.

“Based on common tasks several options for restructuring were developed and presented for decision,” says Cdr Tremblay. “In the end, the option for a common occupation called Marine Technician (Mar Tech), with Electrician and Mechanical Specialist sub-occupations, was chosen.”

The OA then developed the requirements for the new occupation including job descriptions, employment structure and applicable establishment changes, which form the basis of the Military Employment Structure Implementation Plan.

“The new Mar Tech occupation is expected to stand up on May 1, with all occupations transferring into the new structure. The Reserve component is expected to follow in the coming months once all the Reserve positions have been determined to complete their establishment,” says Cdr Tremblay. “The Directorate of Naval Personnel and Training will drive implementation to ensure that the new trade is properly managed and trained, and has competent personnel to support operations.”

Naval Reserve component

The development of the Naval Reserve component had originally been delayed with the Reserve establishment review happening concurrently. When the basic framework of the Reserve component of Mar Tech was complete, the details of the final structure were developed during a week-long working group held at Naval Reserve Headquarters in July 2016.

The results were approved by Deputy Commander RCN in October 2016 as a single occupation that mirrors the Mechanical sub-occupation and supports the Naval Reserve mission, in a strategic augmentation role, of force generating trained engineers who can be employed at sea and ashore in a wide range of missions. Employment for Reserve Mar Techs will focus on support to Naval Security Teams, Maritime Tactical Operations Group (small boats) and Orca-class patrol vessels.

Multi-disciplined approach

Cdr Tremblay says that under the new structure, sailors will require a multi-disciplined approach in order to manage the complex technologies and leaner crewing models proposed for the future fleet. The multi-disciplined Mar Tech will support the fleet with competencies closely aligned with those of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

“Large commercial vessels have operated for years with minimal crewing as compared to RCN ships, and the Mar Tech trade has been designed with the applicable IMO guidelines for competency in manning our current and future fleet,” explains Cdr Tremblay. “As we are a naval organization that operates in the marine environment, the Mar Tech will also require specialized training in order to support both internal and external battles, requirements that do not exist in the civilian world.” 

Trades training will change from a comprehensive process, one course teaches all, to a modularized one. Naval Training Development Centre Pacific will identify and develop both Mar Tech delta training (that which has not yet been completed as part of legacy training) and steady-state training for the legacy occupations. The modularized Mar Tech training plan will prevent duplication of training and allow for the more efficient and timely training of new personnel. A methodology has been developed that will assist in identifying delta training requirements and rationalize them to ensure the safety of equipment, the vessel, or personnel are not compromised.

Occupation and career managers are working to ensure that promotions will continue in order to meet RCN needs and are conducted in the usual fair and transparent manner. Legacy career progression will continue in the individual’s respective occupation for 2017/2018. The following year, Mar Tech career managers will produce a matrix to ensure no legacy occupations are at a disadvantage to one another for career progression, and to ensure seniority is carried over in an equal and fair manner. This matrix will be maintained and adjusted as necessary to ensure fairness until all of the legacy occupations have been fully integrated into Mar Tech.

Proud legacy occupations  

Cdr Tremblay admits there has been some apprehension and concerns from those affected. “The members of the proud legacy occupations made it abundantly clear in their feedback that they were worried about a loss of specialization as a result of the new occupation, and where they would fit into the new paradigm,” he says. “After numerous town halls and information sessions, these sailors are starting to see the benefits of the alignment with civilian standards, and that at a base level, they will become a more rounded maintainer with a general knowledge in electrical, mechanical and hull systems, much like that in the civilian marine industry.”

Once sailors specialize in one of the two sub-occupations, they will be able to carry out most repairs individually, without having to call on the expertise of another trade discipline, as was done in the past, making them more efficient at their jobs. For example, a Leading Seaman in the Mechanical or Electrical stream will no longer need to rely on a legacy occupation to remove wires before removing a pump – one person will do that regardless of the sub-occupation.

“The end result will be a new occupation that retains the skills and knowledge of the legacy occupations, but aligns closer to Transport Canada and IMO competencies in order to produce those efficiencies and individual skill sets that will be required in the future fleet,” explains Cdr Tremblay.    

The comprehensive examination of the RCN NCM occupations continues with the envisioned Deck Operations occupation structure that has commenced on the heels of Mar Tech, and will allow for efficiencies to be realized by aligning the Steward and  Boatswain occupations, and some additional tasks from Naval Communicator.

The next OA will begin later this year, examining the feasibility of creating a new Combat Operations occupation, encompassing the current Naval Combat Operator, Naval Electronic Sensor Operator and Sonar Operator occupations, and potentially elements of Naval Communicator.

While the comprehensive examination has been focused on non-commissioned occupations, at this time no direction has been given to examine officer occupations.

With files from Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class Shaun Perry