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Northam visits Skilled Trades Academy for bill signing

Tidewater Community College’s Skilled Trade Academy was the backdrop for Gov. Ralph Northam’s visit to Hampton Roads on Wednesday morning. Northam signed two bills that enhance worker protections with measures that increase the minimum wage, ban workplace discrimination and combat worker misclassification and wage theft.

“It’s great to be back in Portsmouth,” said Northam, whose message touted the importance of workers. “When we invest in Virginians who are preparing for a job, seeking to learn a new skill for a promotion or wanting to change career paths, we’re investing in Virginia’s economy.”

The Skilled Trades Academy offers short term training in the maritime and construction industry; Northam participated in the academy’s grand opening in December 2019.

President Conston at the Skilled Trades Academy

“We are truly honored you chose TCC’s Skilled Trade Academy for your event this morning,” said TCC President Marcia Conston. “We are excited you are here.”

This wasn’t Northam’s first visit to the Skilled Trades Academy, a 20,000 square-foot facility that offers short-term training in the maritime and construction industry that opened in December 2018. In May 2019, he toured the facility, met with students and signed bill HB2020, which called for Virginia’s Community Colleges to create uniform instruction for registered apprenticeships in high-demand fields.

“I remember well when I was here just a little more than a year ago,” he said.

Several state legislators were in attendance on Wednesday to champion both bills, which include raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour incrementally by 2026. Among them: Del. Cliff Hayes (D-Chesapeake), Chief Workforce Development Officer Megan Healy, Del. Steve Heretick (D-Portsmouth), Sen. Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington), Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), Sen. Jeremy McPike (D-Dale City), Portsmouth Mayor John Rowe, Sen. Lionell Spruill Sr. (D-Chesapeake) and (Del. Jeion Ward (D-Hampton).

“Virginia’s best asset is our workers,” Healy said. “We are in a little bit of an economic slump, but I know our workers and our skilled talent is really what’s going to help this economy rebound.”

President Conston talks with Gov. Northam.

Gov. Northam visits TCC Skilled Trades Academy to sign bill that bridges gap between apprentices, skilled jobs

Tidewater Community College’s Skilled Trades Academy in Portsmouth received a visit from Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday and a gift from the Hampton Roads Workforce Council that will allow the new training center to better serve its apprentices preparing for some of the most in-demand jobs in the commonwealth.

Gov. Northam signed bill  HB2020, which calls for Virginia’s Community Colleges, in consultation with the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, to develop and deliver uniform instruction for registered apprenticeships in high-demand areas that include roofing, sheet metal, pipefitting, pipe laying, HVAC, welding, electrical and maritime trades.

“We used to talk about blue collar versus white collar; we really refer to these as new collar jobs,” said Gov. Northam, who stopped at the Skilled Trades Academy as part of his Build Virginia Regional Tour. “They are jobs that are paying very well and ones that don’t necessarily need a four-year college education.”

Gov. Ralph Northam
Gov. Ralph Northam

Gov. Northam touted Virginia’s Community Colleges for training the new workforce in response to regional demands in the construction and shipbuilding industries. “I applaud Tidewater Community College for their leadership,” he said.

The 20,000-square-foot Skilled Trades Academy opened last December and has since trained 300 students, many of them in pre-hire programs, including Jarvis Hyman, 35. Hyman is completing a 10-day training program in sheet metal for Newport News Shipbuilding.

“I worked in retail for 13 years and was looking for a career change,” he said. “I love the challenge of this, and I can see myself in it for a career.”

Following Gov. Northam’s remarks, Shawn Avery, president and chief executive officer of the Hampton Roads Workforce Council, presented the academy with a check for $25,000.

From left, Del. Matthew James, Megan Healy, Corey McCray, Delcino Miles, Mark Johnson, Gov. Ralph Northam and Shawn Avery
From left, Del. Matthew James, Megan Healy, Corey McCray, Delcino Miles, Mark Johnson, Gov. Ralph Northam and Shawn Avery

“Tidewater Community College is one of our strongest partners,” Avery said. “Our board is committed to the skilled trades. Every year, as long as we have the money, we will be committing $25,000 to support the Skilled Trades Academy.”

Corey McCray, vice president for Workforce Solutions, said the money will allow TCC to train more students and expand its offerings in the skilled trades.

Megan Healy, Virginia’s chief workforce development advisor, stressed the importance of strengthening pathways to skilled trades jobs. “We need to do a better job of helping middle-schoolers and high-schoolers and wandering adults figure out what the great jobs are,” she said.

Gov. Northam, Corey McCray and Megan Healy

Increasing access to apprenticeships and providing more opportunity for online instruction will continue to be priorities of the Build Virginia campaign, she said.

Others in attendance at the morning event included Virginia Sen. John Cosgrove; Del. Matthew James, sponsor of HB 2020 and newly appointed to the governor’s economic development team; Del. Steve Heretick; Vernon Tillage, outreach representative for Sen. Mark Warner; Dominic Melito, chief of staff for Del. Cheryl Turpin; Carol Curtis, founder of Noah Enterprises and chair of the TCC Educational Foundation Board; and Bill Mann, executive director of the Peninsula Council for Workforce Development.

For information about the Skilled Trades Academy, contact Stan Ashemore, program administrator, at or 757-822-2116.