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New dual enrollment programs prepare students for in-demand careers

Dual Enrollment Students

Nearly 500 high school students in Chesapeake are getting a head start on college and careers with dual enrollment courses and pathways at Tidewater Community College.

TCC and Chesapeake Public Schools (CPS) launched four new dual enrollment career and technical pathways in the past three years, including programs in mechatronics, collision repair technology, welding and electrical wiring.

Pathways for pharmacy technician and cybersecurity are coming soon.

“Local industry partners are finding a skills gap between job applicants and entry-level position vacancies that are critical to their operations,” said Chesapeake Campus Provost Lisa Rhine. “Career and technical dual enrollment programs create a continuous pipeline of qualified, credentialed workers helping to fill that skills gap while also fueling our local economy.”

Three students working on a mechatronics systemTCC’s mechatronics program prepares students for careers in advanced manufacturing by training them on mechatronic systems. These are typically composed of traditional mechanical and electrical components but are referred to as “smart” devices or systems because of the incorporation of sensors, actuators, robotics, instrumentation, process control and automation.

Nineteen students will complete the program by the end of Spring Semester 2019, earning both a high school diploma and a Career Studies Certificate in Mechatronics. The group, which boasts a 98 percent success rate in credit hours completed, uses TCC’s state-of-the-art Precision Machining Lab on the Chesapeake Campus.

“I had a feeling I’d like this field, and now I know I’ve found my career,” said Dylan Starowicz, a Hickory High student.

Two students working on a mechatronics board“It’s like learning a whole new language. When you start at the beginning and solve small problems, it makes it easier to solve  bigger problems. Coming here has opened up a whole new field to me,” added Ryan Laing of Great Bridge High.

After graduation from high school, students can complete an Associate of Applied Science in Mechatronics in just one year. Graduates are eligible to test for industry credentials from the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute and the National Institute of Metalworking Skills in Electrical Systems. Students also complete the OSHA 10-hour construction safety and health training, a prerequisite to hiring by many in the industry.

A second cohort forming now includes 16 students so far. The program is best suited for those with an interest in electronics who enjoy working with their hands to build electrical, mechanical and robotic systems.

Student working on the outside of a car bodyCollision Repair Technology is a one-year program with 12 students working to earn a Career Studies Certificate in Non-Structural Repair or Refinishing. The hands-on program allows students to restore vehicles and learn welding, painting, dent repair and plastic repair.

Students are performing with a 100 percent success rate at credit hour completion and retention. That’s good news as, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, job growth is expected to grow 8 percent over the next decade.

Graduates can sit for the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR) certification for ProLevel 1 and 2 in Non-Structural Repair and Refinishing.

Student repairing the inside of a car door“I started working on cars with my grandfather. I hope to become a mechanic who knows everything about restoration,” said Thomas Cochran of Indian River High. After Cochran completes this program, he plans to continue his studies at the college’s Regional Automotive Center.

Electrical wiring is a one-year program designed to give students a basic understanding of residential and industrial wiring and national code by teaching theory and offering hands-on training. This program launched in fall 2017 with five students. Students also earn the OSHA 10-hour construction safety and health training.

“I see a future in this work, and it’s a bonus getting to learn skills while still in high school,” said Brandon Halloran, an Oscar Smith High student who hopes to work for Dominion Energy after graduation.

Student in safety goggles working on wiringThe welding program also launched last fall with 10 students studying theory and gaining hands-on training.  In the two-year program, students earn a Career Studies Certificate in Welding and can sit for certification exams through the American Welding Society.

Collision repair, electrical wiring and welding courses are all offered at the Chesapeake Career Center, a CPS facility across from the Chesapeake Campus.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, students who earn college credits before finishing high school are more likely to complete their four-year degrees on time.

More ways to dual enroll

A variety of stand-alone dual enrollment courses on each of TCC’s campuses is also available, including college composition, environmental science, United States history and computer technology.

In addition, dual enrollment transfer degrees enable students to attend four-year schools sooner rather than later. TCC’s multiple pathways allow ambitious students to earn their high school diplomas and associate degrees simultaneously.

All courses are taught by full- and part-time faculty members who meet the standards of Virginia’s Community Colleges. Credits are generally accepted at all of Virginia’s public and private universities.

For more information on dual enrollment at TCC, visit