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From here, go to work as a land surveyor

A future that’s everywhere: Our infrastructure never stops growing. Neither does the demand for land surveyors. Tidewater Community College’s Career Studies Certificate in Land Surveying, which can be completed 100 percent online, also started a pilot apprenticeship program with VDOT that allows students to earn while being employed.

The details: VDOT’s Land Survey Technician Apprenticeship Program prepares individuals for entry-level surveying positions. Apprentices learn basic knowledge of land surveying principles and practices and learn to use equipment that includes GPS, levels and a robotic total station. They are employees of VDOT, which pays for all tuition, fees and necessary exams.

Apprentices work in either Culpeper or Hampton.

Meet a VDOT apprentice: Virginia Beach’s Reece Miller loves working outdoors and the benefits of working for VDOT.

“I think what drew my attention to becoming a surveyor is the amount of activeness that comes with it. What I mean by that is that it is not exactly a desk job. Being a surveyor lets me be outside for a good amount of the day or even week. I get to be enjoying the great outdoors while working at the same time, which is really good for a starting job straight out of college.

“VDOT provides me with so many benefits that my future is filled with endless opportunities.”

Another perk: VDOT apprentices complete a drone class with certification to legally operate a drone for non-hobby activities.

What else: Mentorship is an important component of TCC’s land surveying program. Apprentices working for VDOT are provided a mentor who is a licensed land surveyor. Students who plan to enroll at TCC to be surveyor who are not in the VDOT program can find a mentor with the help of the Virginia Association of Surveyors. The two-semester program is just 27 credits.

Interested? For apprenticeship opportunities in land surveying, contact Karen Miller (TCC Apprenticeship Institute) at For questions about the academic component of the program, email Chris Cartwright, program head for Civil Engineering Technology at TCC, at

Setting up an apprenticeship for your company is as easy as T-C-C

As machine shop manager at Electric Motor & Contracting Company, Inc., (EMC) Dan Purcell recognizes the importance of attracting young adults to a career field that doesn’t immediately jump to mind.

The Chesapeake-based company overhauls electric motors for industries ranging from nuclear to marine but it relies heavily on an older workforce with not enough young workers in the pipeline qualified to take their place in the next decade or more.

Jordan Myers
Jordan Myers

Beginning a registered apprenticeship program just made sense. Purcell just didn’t expect it to be so simple. He filled out minimal paperwork for the Department of Labor and collaborated with Tidewater Community College’s Apprenticeship Institute to provide the relevant coursework for the company based in Chesapeake’s Cavalier Industrial Park.

“Working with TCC has been the ticket,” Purcell said. “That was the part that helped me more than anything, having the educational component. Partnering with TCC has been fantastic.”

Registered apprenticeships depend on an “earn-while-you-learn” approach. Employers can build a qualified workforce in fields that include health care, construction or any industry that requires training to advance.

“TCC’s Apprenticeship Institute is responsible for making an employer’s interaction with the college as seamless possible,” said Todd Estes, director of the college’s Apprenticeship Institute.  “Employers don’t need to figure out how to get what they need from the college. It’s our job to make these partnerships as easy as possible for both apprentice and employer.”

TCC provides curriculum and instruction geared toward earning employees an industry-recognized credential.

Apprentices work full time and receive company benefits, including raises with pay starting at $12 and rising to $26 per hour by the end of the four-year apprenticeship. The coursework at TCC after work is on their own time, but EMC covers tuition and book costs.

Jordan Myers, 23, and Chance Styron, 29, are the company’s inaugural apprentices.

“This is a way to learn a skill and advance your career,” Styron said. “I’m not going to be a wrench-turner forever. It’s challenging work, but I enjoy it.”

“You get lots of hands-on experience,” said Myers, who was also assigned a mentor with the company. “Plus I love the fact you don’t have to pay for school.”

Apprenticeship, Purcell said, is a viable model that could work for multiple industries and it’s an alternative worth considering for someone who doesn’t fit into the traditional college mold.

“In 10 years, 60 percent of my workforce will be gone, and the labor pool is not what it used to be,” said Purcell, who says the company values committed worth ethic and the drive to succeed along with a mechanical aptitude. “Apprentices can earn a living, get their own place and still learn.”

Companies interested in setting up a registered apprenticeship program can contact Karen Miller, TCC’s interim associate vice president for corporate solutions & apprenticeship, at 757-822-1504.

New Technical Studies program bridges gap between workplace skills and college degree

Back row, from left: Thomas Stout, TCC’s dean of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics; Todd Estes, director of TCC’s Apprenticeship Institute; Kellie Sorey, TCC’s associate vice president for academics; Brian Payne, ODU’s vice provost for academic affairs; Jane Bray, ODU’s dean of the Darden School of Education; Tammi Dice, associate dean for undergraduate education at the Darden School; Daniel DeMarte, TCC’s executive vice president for academic and student affairs. Front row: Ellen Neufeldt, ODU’s vice president for student engagement and enrollment services; Edna V. Baehre-Kolovani, TCC president

Thanks to a new transfer agreement between Tidewater Community College and Old Dominion University, adult and non-traditional students can earn college credit for their knowledge, training and skills in the workplace.

The agreement aims to address the growing needs of local business and industry partners by providing college credit to skilled workers who often need formal education to advance their careers.

Old Dominion’s Ellen Neufeldt, vice president for student engagement and enrollment services, joined Edna Baehre-Kolovani, president of TCC, at a signing ceremony on May 21.

Students who earn TCC’s Associate of Applied Science in Technical Studies with a Specialization in Technical Supervision, and have significant and documented occupational experience and technical training, can seamlessly transition to ODU’s industrial technology major, offered through the Darden College of Education.

“Together with Old Dominion, we have taken an innovative approach to breaking down the barriers that often inhibit adult learners with significant technical skills from furthering their education,” said President Kolovani. “We’ve created an academic pathway that they can carry over to the doctorate level if they choose.”

Various businesses, industries and agencies, such as Virginia Natural Gas and apprenticeship partners, approached TCC to explore how the college can help highly-skilled employees bridge the gap between professional expertise and formal education.

Kellie Sorey, TCC’s associate vice president for academics, said TCC welcomes opportunities to meet employers’ needs in innovative ways.

“The Technical Studies associate degree with the Technical Supervision specialization will allow TCC and ODU to recognize and reward individuals for their unique and significant work experiences in business and industry, the military and registered apprenticeship programs,” she said.

Those with documented technical skills and professional experience can receive nearly half of the associate degree with advanced standing credit, “putting them well on the way to completing the associate and bachelor degrees.” ODU will accept all credits awarded by TCC, she said.

Every student will take a new gateway course, co-created and co-taught by TCC and ODU faculty, during which their knowledge, skills and abilities will be assessed in order to award advanced standing credit.

Jim Kibler, president of Virginia Natural Gas, said his rapidly growing industry has many good employees who need formal education to advance.

“The ability to apply on-the-job experience toward furthering their education is a tremendous opportunity for our talented energy professionals to achieve their personal and professional goals,” he said. “We’re committed to rewarding and retaining an inclusive workforce to ensure our customers receive the most responsive, reliable service possible. After all, we are our customers too.”

Todd Estes, director of the Apprenticeship Institute at TCC, added, “This agreement represents an ideal intersection between higher education and workplace learning. It puts in place the framework, the assessment methods, where individuals can come in with significant experience or prior learning and actually be rewarded and acknowledged for what learning has already taken place.”

“I am very pleased to see the positive result of the strong partnership between ODU and TCC,” said ODU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Austin Agho. “This innovative, collaborative articulation agreement provides eligible TCC graduates the opportunity to seamlessly transfer into the bachelor of science occupational and technical studies degree at  Old Dominion University.

Petros Katsioloudis, chair of ODU’s STEM Education and Professional Studies Department, and a leader in creating the new agreement, said it meets a clear need.

“Currently, the industrial technology program enrolls roughly 120 students and is projected to add 300 students over the next two years,” Katsioloudis said. “We are extremely excited and confident that the new model will better serve the skilled workforce in our area and nationwide.”

Tammi Dice, associate dean for undergraduate education at the Darden College of Education, added that the College “extends the benefits of higher education to corporations. Ultimately, students can minimize unnecessary coursework based on prior learning assessments, which allows them to re-enter the workforce with a degree sooner and with advanced skill,” she said.

Those who have completed registered apprenticeships, active duty and transitioning military, and employees of companies with highly structured and robust training programs are ideal candidates.

“I can’t wait to get my journeymen, my employees enrolled in this program,” said Guy St. John, apprenticeship program manager for Oceaneering International. “ It’s going to be beneficial to the industry. It’s going to be beneficial to our community. It’s going to be beneficial to the nation.”

For details on TCC’s new associate degree, visit

Pre-apprentices and employers meet face to face at TCC career preparation seminar

Juniors and seniors from the four major school systems, representatives from regional ship repair companies and administrators invested in Tidewater Community College’s Apprenticeship Institute created a buzz in the Chesapeake Campus Student Center.

Mock interviews, resume advice and real talk from a panel of apprentices were all part of TCC’s first-ever Shipbuilding Pre-Apprenticeship Career Preparation Seminar.

“This is collaboration — employers, high school students and the college all connecting,” said Todd Estes, director of TCC’s Apprenticeship Institute. The 132 pre-apprentices, each wearing navy, collared polo shirts, sponsored by The SMART Center, sat across the table from employers, all members of Virginia Ship Repair Association, for a sampling of some real-world questions they might be asked should they continue the apprenticeship route.

Representatives from Newport News Shipbuilding, Oceaneering, BAE Systems, Lyon Shipyard, Tecnico and Colonna’s were among those in attendance.

Pre-apprentices Aaron Farnham (Grassfield), Alyssa Shepherd (Wilson), Felicia Cossavella (First Colonial) and Warren Burrus (Norview)

Interviews were conducted in the same manner as speed dating.

“An ad slogan to describe yourself?”

“What do you do when you’re part of a team and one member isn’t carrying his weight?”

“What’s your strength?”

Good attendance isn’t the best answer for that last question, advised Cal Scheidt, director of military contract programs at TCC. “That’s an expectation.”

When the pre-apprentices would stammer, freeze and even “pass” on a question, they were encouraged to dig deeper. “You’ve got to learn to think on your feet,” urged Will Early from Tecnico.

As pre-apprentices, the students already have a leg up on achieving a Registered Apprenticeship opportunity that would allow them to “earn while they learn.” Three hours of real-world career preparation only enhances their chances of being part of a program that combines on-the-job training with a theoretical approach and a paycheck in career areas that have been identified as high demand.

Demetrius Lee, a senior at Norcom High who was accepted into the Apprentice School just two days prior, enjoyed the practical tips he learned over three hours.

Demetrius Lee with Will Prescott, training manager at The Apprentice School.

From his first day learning welding at TCC’s Portsmouth Campus, Lee realized he had found something special. For starters, he loves to weld.  “I knew it was for me; the learning process is actually fun,” he said. “I like everything about it – the environment and the teachers – they push you.”

Lee, aspiring to be a supervisor at Newport News Shipbuilding, noted, “It’s overwhelming and unreal to be 18 and have a promising career.”

Seth Messinger, a Great Bridge High junior, also found the day helpful.  “Getting to know the companies and what they expect is great, so when I come back next year as a senior, I already have that relationship,” he said.

Administrators from the school systems in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach agreed that pre-apprenticeships are becoming an easier sell in an era of student loan debt coupled with the frustration of finding a good job even with a bachelor’s degree in hand.

“This has the potential to be life changing for these young people,” said Sheli Porter, director of high school curriculum and instruction for Chesapeake Public Schools. “We’re trying to expand the knowledge in our community that there are opportunities. You can make a good living and we have employers who are right here eager to talk to these young people.

“TCC helped us facilitate these conversations between businesses and our kids and our families so that they understand apprenticeship is a valid option. Our school division is the vessel to give kids that library of choice. This is not settling. This is a good living, a career.”

For information about the Apprenticeship Institute, contact Estes at