BATH, Maine — Bath Iron Works has hired more than 1,000 employees so far this year and hopes to hire nearly 1,000 more by year's end as it addresses the largest backlog of work in decades.

With six destroyers under construction and another six under contract, BIW is about to bid against three other shipyards to build an entire class of 20 frigates for the U.S. Navy.

The contract, to be awarded next year, will mean an estimated $20.5 billion for the winner. The first of the FFG(X) frigates is slated to be built next year.

Currently, the shipyard employs more than 6,000 -- but will need even more to deliver 12 ships in the next 8 years, Director of Trades Evan Gilman and Director of Human Resources Jon Mason wrote in a recent internal newsletter.

While the significant backlog is good news for the company, staffing up is critical to building ships faster, they said.

But with unemployment at 3 percent and the economy strong, "the war for talented people" is underway, Jeff Davis, spokesman for General Dynamics, which owns BIW, said Friday.

BIW spokesman David Hench declined to comment.

As part of their recruitment effort, BIW has sponsored a number of job fairs and has visited community colleges and high schools.

The BIW Training Academy at Brunswick Landing now operates two shifts, training new shipfitters, pipefitters, insulators, tinsmiths and general laborers.

Beginning on Monday, BIW will fund a three-week program at Southern Maine Community College in Brunswick that will train high school graduates to be manufacturing technicians while paying them $500 a week to learn. 

The final Zumwalt-class "stealth" destroyer, the future USS Lyndon B Johnson (DDG 1002), was christened in April, and the future USS Daniel Inouye (DDG 118) was christened at the Bath shipyard in June.

Also under construction are four  Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, the future USS Carl M. Levin (DDG 120), the future USS John Basilone (DDG 122), the future USS Harvey C. Barnum Jr. (DDG 124) and the future USS Patrick Gallagher (DDG 127). The future USS Louis H. Wilson Jr. (DDG 126) and 5 additional Arleigh Burke destroyers awarded under a September 2018 multi-year procurement are not yet under construction.

BIW also provides planning yard services for the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, including design, logistics, planning and executionn, and manages post-delivery maintenance and modernization for the Zumwalt- and LCS-class ships.