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Going from zero to the 60-some credits needed to earn an associate degree can be an overwhelming prospect if you work all day as Terrance Myers II and Matthew Ramsey do at Busch Manufacturing. Likewise for their supervisor, Mike Petrice, who started at the Virginia Beach industrial vacuum equipment supplier decades ago but never took the time to earn a college degree.

Myers and Ramsey are apprentices and Petrice is a manager, but all three are also Tidewater Community College students on their way to an associate thanks to a new offering that jumpstarts their academic progress.

TCC’s Associate of Applied Science in Technical Studies with a Specialization in Technical Supervision doesn’t require them to start at 0 credits. By taking into account relevant job-related training and prior professional experience, they can be awarded as many as 23 credits.

Given that, Myers said,  “It feel so daunting anymore.”

A Great Bridge graduate, Myers initially got hired at Busch in the facilities department, but responded as Ramsey did to a post seeking apprentices. Neither would have pictured themselves going that route years ago. But earning wages while having schooling paid for made sense to both, who have already gained career studies certificates in computer numerical controls and basic metal and plastic machine operator.

When Petrice heard about TCC partnering with Old Dominion University for a program that provides college credit to skilled workers who often need formal education to advance their careers, he thought of his apprentices.

The program allows students who graduate from TCC with an associate to transition into ODU’s industrial technology major.

With both apprentices on board, Petrice began to consider his own goals. “In 1987, you didn’t need a degree to become a manager,” he said. Already an adjunct instructor at TCC’s Center for Workforce Solutions, he’d like to work as a consultant when he eventually retires from Busch.

He realized, “I need a degree.”

So Petrice enrolled in the program, too. It starts with a Tuesday evening gateway class taught by Thomas Stout, TCC’s dean of STEM, who helps each of the students document their technical skills and professional experience in a portfolio. From there, a determination is made as to the number of credits TCC will award for advanced credit standing.

Petrice knows he will surely earn the maximum of 23 credits given his background, meaning he will only need 37 more to earn his associate. Ramsey could also receive 23 credits given his experience in the Army, a year of college at VMI and the learning he’s mastered as an apprentice.

Myers initially thought his portfolio would be thin but realized the safety and quality training he learned at Busch was applicable.

Petrice believes the degee is a good fit for others and recommended it to all the employees in Busch’s machine shop. “I thought I’d be the oldest student in the class at 49,” he said. “But once I got there, I’m right in the middle. It’s a comfortable environment.”

“No matter what you plan to do,” Ramsey said, “a degree gives you an advantage against the guys you’re competing against whether it’s here at Busch or down the road.”

Interested in learning more about TCC’s technical studies degree? Visit