Matt Potter: Let's just start with a general bio about you...where you were born, where you grew up.
Kristin Shott: I grew up in Vallejo, California, which is a nuclear submarine town, small town. I started working for a nuclear submarine base called Mare Island in 1983 -- I was approximately 15 years old -- until it closed, due to base closures, and then I transferred here to San Diego to [meet] at North Island.
MP: So you were 15 when you started to work?
MP: What kind of work?
KS: I started doing secretarial, and then I went into welding on nuclear submarines, and then I transferred down here as a welder.
MP: How did you get interested in welding? How did that happen?
KS: Well, the base was going into BRAC [Base Realignments and Closures], so they were having a lot of layoffs. And one of my supervisors had mentioned to me that my position was being targeted for abolishment and the apprenticeship program had opened and that I should take the test, so I took the test. It just kind of accelerated for me going from white collar to blue collar, which was a great change. I was really glad I did it.
MP: And that was '83?
KS: Um, yes. I became a welder in '88 or '89, somewhere around there and have been ever since.
MP: And how do you train for that? How did you get certified?
KS: They have an apprenticeship program that's in collaboration with the junior college there. It's a collaborative effort with the Navy and the colleges in that area.
MP: Were your folks in the Navy?
KS: No, but both my parents worked for the military, for either Mare Island or Alameda. Both bases, of course, are closed now, so...
MP: Did you graduate from high school?
KS: Oh, yes. I graduated from high school and then went to college, and eventually I was picked up permanently at Mare Island and then went into the apprenticeship.
MP: When you first went to work at 15, you were still in high school then?
MP: So it was like a part-time job?
KS: A student-aid program.
MP: Oh, I see.
KS: And then from there, I just continued into college.
MP: And what college did you go to?
KS: Solano Community College.
MP: And so did you get an AA from that?
KS: I'm one class away but I'm going back into college at the end of this month, actually, to continue my bachelor of science degree.
MP: And, the apprenticeship -- was that part of the community college program?
KS: Yes. A collaborative effort with Mare Island.
MP: And so, after you got your certification, you became a welder? Is that how it works?
KS: Well, it's a four-year program. You go through a four-year training program along with college-required courses, trade-related courses. And then after the four years, I graduated.
MP: Four years of college and...?
KS: And hands-on training. There's certain levels of the welding program that you had to qualify at each level before you're promoted up into the, you know, final grade of [mechanics].
MP: That's a standard thing that everybody that works for the Navy, theoretically, goes through?
KS: Well, for nuclear submarine bases, yes. No, it's not a standard. They are picking up the practice here in San Diego. They just started the apprenticeship program at my agency probably about eight months ago. They started it back up when they finally realized that, you know, the skills that they're required aren't meeting government standards, so they have gone back into the apprenticeship program, yes, for San Diego. I think they had been out for, like, 15 years. But a lot of the larger shipyards do have apprenticeships. Bremerton [in Washington state] has a very large one and, of course, my base did. Nuclear submarine bases are very specialized because of pressure and stuff on the submarines. You have to be extremely trained at the highest level possible.
KS: You know, so you don't have any casualties, of course.
KS: There's a lot of work involved in it.
MP: So you did that in...you worked up there until what year?
KS: Um, 1994. Until I transferred down here, or 1995. I don't even remember! I think it's 1995. October 1995.
MP: And on the submarines you just did, sort of, any kind of welding, or are there specialties?
KS: Well, I went through a lot of different types of training. You know, you have certain levels during your apprenticeship. You have your first level, which is just basic structure welding. And then you end up doing, like, patch crews and pipe welding, which are more specialized. So, I finished all of my phases through there, yes. So I did get a lot of the specialized training.
MP: So you could rotate around and do different things?
KS: Correct, correct. And then I worked a lot on target teams, where I was traveling quite a bit too. And there was different certifications for a different type of year with different types of metal that were required through the Navy.
MP: Were there a lot of women there, or were you one of many or one of few?
KS: At Mare Island, I think we had approximately 10 females out of 500 when I first started. Here I'm the only female! And it really shows. There's not too many females in the structural trades here, and I've noticed a lot of animosity. Yeah, it's pretty amazing.
MP: But up there, was it different? Was the environment different?
KS: Northern California is night and day from Southern California. Yes, you could really see the difference! There's more females, I would say, in Northern California than Southern California in the trades, definitely. Definitely a large attitude difference.
MP: So even way back then in '83, like, 20 years ago?
KS: I didn't really notice it at Mare Island. It's when I came down here is when I noticed more of the discriminated attitudes towards females in the trades. Up there I think it was more common, so people were adjusted to it already by the time I got into the field.