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Juneteenth Closure

TCC will be closed Wednesday, June 19, in observance of the Juneteenth holiday.

The apprentice mindset

Tidewater Community College is proud to recognize four apprentices on track to becoming certified journeymen in their trades. A journeyman is a worker skilled in a trade or craft who has successfully completed an official apprenticeship qualification.

All four are part of the Oceaneering Marine Services Division apprentice program with TCC as their academic partner. All are full-time employees of Oceaneering and earn while they learn on the job, gaining knowledge and skill by working with seasoned craftsmen.

Oceaneering’s program takes three to four years to complete and includes at least 2,000 hours of on-the-job training.

Also, Oceaneering apprentices receive full scholarships to TCC from the Virginia Vocational Incentive Scholarship Plan for shipyard workers. All four are earning TCC’s Career Studies Certificates in the evenings in related fields.

“I’m thrilled to see our apprentices excelling in their chosen fields,” said Guy St. John, Apprentice Program Manager at Oceaneering International. “Earning the certificate of completion as journeymen is not an easy task. The maritime industry is early hours and physically demanding. And these employees have added higher education to their already full schedules.”

Oceaneering apprentices share their secrets to success

John “Mikey” Pishnock, 29, started as a welder at Oceaneering in 2014 and has been part of the apprentice program since 2018. He is a third-generation welder, as were his father and grandfather before him. Mikey is taking a different professional track by working his way into a leadership role in the company. He currently works in the Planning division and is studying for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification, a globally recognized certification that tests a candidate’s ability to manage the people, processes and business priorities of a professional project.

He earned two Career Studies Certificates from TCC, one in Welding and the other in Maritime Technologies. “My TCC courses helped me to learn to think more critically,” he said. “Also, getting out of the welding booth and doing more has been beneficial for my growth.”

Mikey is continuing his education at Old Dominion University where he is working on a bachelor’s in industrial technology with a focus in supervision.

“I’m glad I started in welding because it gives me a good idea of the work involved. You have to go through the ranks to move forward in leadership,” he said.

Mikey says he wishes he had started earlier. “TCC’s professors are there to help you one-on-one. They will come in early or leave late to make sure your questions are answered.”

“Anybody can excel in this program,” he added. “All it takes is a good attitude. Also, you have to be coachable and willing to work hard.”

Mikey was nominated for the Outstanding Junior Tradesman of the Year by the Virginia Ship Repair Association and earned his journeyman certificate in 2022.

A First Colonial High School graduate, Mikey resides in Virginia Beach and is newly married.

Christopher Muhlbaier, 33, is a Hickory High School graduate and Chesapeake resident who earned his accredited journeyman certificate in 2022. Chris is an outside machinist and has worked on U.S. Navy surface craft and submarines on alteration installation teams.

He joined the apprentice program in 2018 and has since earned Career Studies Certificates in Marine Mechanical and Maritime Technologies.

“It’s very rewarding being part of the Navy support system and making sure our sailors have what they need to work, when they need it,” he said.

Chris says he wanted to continue his education and found this a cost-effective way to do just that.

“I came to TCC right after high school and took computer science classes. I wasn’t ready for college then and spent the rest of my 20’s in retail,” Chris said.

He added, “This time around I was ready. I found my professors to be very helpful and, between the staff at TCC and Guy, I always had some way to get help if I needed it.”

Chris’ advice for future apprentices is simple: “Keep up with your schoolwork and stay ahead of assignments and tests. As long as you have the mindset to learn, just about anyone can be successful.”

Spencer Ottey joined the apprentice program in 2019 and will earn his journeyman certificate in 2023. This year he was nominated as the Junior Trades Person of the Year by the Virginia Ship Repair Association.

 He says, “This industry is physically and mentally challenging, and the work requires a high level of skill. I’m really proud of being recognized in this way.”

A Granby High School graduate, Spencer took welding classes at TCC before coming to Oceaneering.  “Getting to learn from some of the best in the field gave me a real boost. I can’t say enough about my instructors: Mr. Duke, Mr. Moody and Mr. Nimes. They were all excellent,” he said.

Spencer said that traditional college wasn’t a reasonable goal for him as he doesn’t enjoy sitting in a classroom, but prefers working with his hands. “The welding apprenticeship was a great fit because I got to learn from experienced craftsmen. They know the techniques and just watching them work, you learn so much. My mentor was Tim Kamits and I wouldn’t be in the position I am now without him.”

Spencer is a few classes away from earning an associate degree. He also has Career Studies Certificates in Welding and Maritime Technologies.

“It’s pretty intense building these crazy structures on submarines to ensure they can be repaired and ready for deployments,” he said. “It feels good knowing we are helping to defend our country and supplying the Navy with well-maintained ships and subs and helping get our service men and women home safe.”

Spencer says the thing he enjoyed most about TCC was that the classes matched up with industry needs. “Every class has a direct purpose on the job and that’s what makes the learning so phenomenal.”

As for advice for others, Spencer says, “Always be a team player and take your time to learn. There are no shortcuts. Work hard and stay safe.”

Gunner Standing grew up working for his father in the family construction business, pouring concrete and building homes. He is no stranger to hard work, having grown up in a rural part of Pungo where there were endless chores to do.

When the time for college came around, Gunner, 25, opted to go to work instead. “Some of my friends were doing odd jobs, but I was looking for a career. When I got into welding, everything just clicked.”

Gunner joined Oceaneering in 2019. From the start, his work was noticed by the seasoned welders on the job. “Welding is what I was meant to do, and the older guys were always there encouraging me,” he said.

“I had some confidence issues growing up but doing welding work changed all that.  It’s so beneficial to work with skilled tradespeople as you see how to do things right every day,” he said.

“I tell everyone to talk with the people at TCC. They are there to help. I’m encouraging many of my friends to come here and give this work a try. That way when I’m a supervisor, I will really know the crew,” he said with a laugh.

For those coming into the program next, he says, “Don’t come in thinking these classes are easy. And get very good at time management because you are going to need it. Have your weeks planned out, do meal prepping and laundry on a schedule.”

Gunner has earned a Career Studies Certificate in Welding and will soon complete another certificate in Maritime Technologies.

Gunner added, “It’s important to love what you do. There are many areas in the apprentice program. Pick the one that is right for you.”

Gunner will earn his journeyman certificate in 2023.

For information about TCC’s apprentice programs visit here. If your organization is interested in starting an apprentice initiative, contact TCC’s Apprenticeship Program Coordinator Shane Kiernan at 757-822-1504 or email

Train for a job that puts you in command at sea

Are you interested in a career on the water as a tour boat operator or fishing boat captain?

Hampton Roads is the third-largest area in the country that employs captains, mates and pilots and you could be one of them.

The Hampton Roads Maritime Training program (HRMT), offered through Tidewater Community College’s Center for Workforce Solutions, can prepare you to be the captain of a vessel up to 100 tons.

Courses are taught by expert instructors, two of whom recently retired from the U.S. Coast Guard.

In addition, the class has been expanded to include experience on the upgraded Maritime Bridge Simulator, bringing state of the art technology to the class. Simulator time enhances the students’ understanding of the Maritime Rules of the Road, as well as vessel operations in all weather conditions. In addition, navigational lights, sound signals, and radio communications can be integrated into each scenario.

Courses are offered throughout the year. Sessions are offered days and evenings on TCC’s Virginia Beach Campus.

Students who successfully complete these courses do not have to take the U.S. Coast Guard examinations at a regional exam center. The course fee includes tuition and books.

The two U.S. Coast Guard-approved classes running this fall are:

Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels (OUPV), also called the “Six Pack,” as this is the Coast Guard license required for those operating vessels for hire carrying no more than six passengers. The course runs for 76 hours with the next session beginning on Sept. 28 for evening classes and Oct. 11 for day classes.

The second course upgrades the OUPV license to Not More Than 100 Gross Ton Master’s License. This license is required by those operating inspected vessels 100 gross tons or less and providing services for more than six paying passengers. The class runs for 28 hours with the next session beginning on Oct. 25 for days and Dec. 7 for evenings.

TCC is a 2021 Center of Excellence for Domestic Maritime Workforce Training and Education. To register for fall sessions, visit here.

For more information, call (757) 822-7669 or the Virtual Student Support Team at 757-822-1111. 

TCC designated as Center of Excellence for Domestic Maritime Workforce Training and Education

Tidewater Community College was named a Center of Excellence for Domestic Maritime Workforce Training and Education by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD).

The designation was announced in a press release from the agency on May 19, 2021.

The Center of Excellence designation recognizes community colleges and training institutions that prepare students for careers in our nation’s maritime industry. TCC is one of 27 academic institutions in sixteen states and one U.S. territory to receive the designation.

“TCC is committed to continuing the legacy of offering high-quality education and career training for the next generation of maritime professionals,” said TCC President Marcia Conston. “By working together, we’re building a pipeline of skilled technicians for careers at our ports and at sea.”

Maritime worker at a shipyard.

MARAD may now start working with designated institutions to enter into cooperative agreements to help advance recruitment of students and faculty, enhance facilities, award student credit for military service and potentially receive assistance in the form of surplus equipment or temporary use of MARAD vessels. 

“This designation gives us a seal of approval for the work we’re doing in providing quality training for those entering the maritime industry,” added Tamara Williams, TCC’s vice president of Workforce Solutions.

Authorized under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2018, the Center of Excellence program is designed to assist the maritime industry in gaining and sustaining a well-trained labor force while enhancing diversity and inclusion in the industry. 

“The Center of Excellence designation recognizes the high standard of maritime education and training provided by the designated community and technical colleges and maritime training centers. These institutions play vital roles in our nation’s maritime industry by providing the training and skills students need to begin and advance careers afloat and ashore,” said Acting Maritime Administrator Lucinda Lessley.

TCC is one of two designated centers in Virginia.

For information about TCC’s workforce and educational programs, contact the Virtual Student Support Team at or call 757-822-1111.

Information regarding the Center of Excellence program and the application process was disseminated through Federal Register notices. Successful applicants include accredited community colleges, technical colleges and maritime training centers under State supervision. A searchable, interactive map is available to provide information on each Center of Excellence designee. For additional information, please visit Centers of Excellence on the MARAD website.

Conference works toward a sea of change in maritime education

“Everything around here, one way or another, runs on the water,” said Jennifer Palestrant of Tidewater Community College and the Southeast Maritime and Transportation (SMART) Center, as she opened a two-day conference in Norfolk focused on all things maritime.

“All Hands on Deck,” the 2019 National Maritime Education Conference held June 10 and 11 at the Norfolk Sheraton, brought together industry representatives and educators to identify the opportunities, issues and challenges when it comes to strengthening America’s maritime sector.

Everyone, from President Trump on down, says beefing up the maritime industry is essential to national and economic security. In fact, it’s one of the few areas of agreement in D.C., speakers said.

President DeCinque with Drew Lumpkin, representing Sen. Mark Warner, and Rep. Bobby Scott.

Training the maritime workforce, however, is a work in progress. “If we’re going to reap the benefits of the maritime industry, we have to meet the need for skilled workers,” U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, said in his keynote address on Monday. “We live in an increasingly global economy. We’re competing for jobs with cities all over the world.”

Scott said his colleagues agree on the need to support skills-based education, and he hopes, through the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, that students in high-quality short-term programs will become eligible for Pell Grants, just as academic students are. “We agree on policy,” he said. “We disagree about funding. I don’t know how that’s going to work out.”

Retired Navy Rear Adm. Mark Buzby heads MARAD, the Maritime Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation. He’s a frequent visitor to Capitol Hill to testify before Congress about how to energize the maritime industry.

“They ask me, ‘Admiral, how do you fix this?’ ” he said. “I tell them we need more ships, we need more cargo, and we need more people.”

Buzby reported that the establishment of the Domestic Centers of Maritime Excellence at community and technical colleges – which was approved last year as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — is making its way through various bureaucratic hoops. The centers will bolster maritime education at two-year and technical colleges by growing enrollment, recruiting more faculty, expanding facilities and creating new career pathways.

“Nobody is against it,” Buzby said, describing his boss, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao as a “ferocious advocate” of maritime. “But because it’s brand new, they want to make sure the language is exactly right. I can’t tell you when, but we’ll get there. Congress is supportive.”

He puts shipping and maritime operations in the same infrastructure category as roads, bridges and rail systems. “Not just ports and ships, but also people.” But the general public has very little understanding of maritime and the maritime industry, he added. “Most experience maritime through the cruise industry.

“I’m enlisting you to help get the word out,” he said. “We need to reach out at the high school level to spark interest in young men and women in going to sea.”

Participants spent two days discussing strategies, such as applying military experience to credit programs, developing high school maritime programs, navigating to recognized industry credentials, and promoting high school dual enrollment and incumbent worker training.

DeCinque, Lumpkin and Scott with Thomas Stout, dean of STEM, and Palestrant.

They also heard from John Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Port of Virginia, and Shashi Kumar of MARAD, who focuses on education and training.

In addition to TCC, conference sponsors included Learn America, a New York maritime training center; Florida Keys Community College; San Jacinto College-Maritime (Texas); American Trucking Association; Virginia Ship Repair Association; Virginia Maritime Association; Colonna’s Shipyard; Port of Virginia; Lyon Shipyard; Massimo Zanetti; Nauticus; and Downs Government Affairs LLC.

TCC’s work with the maritime industry has been “just amazing,” said President Gregory DeCinque. Recognizing the importance of those industry partnerships, he told the participants, “You really reflect the true pathway where we need to go as a country. My mantra is ‘partner or perish.’ We can’t go it alone anymore.”

Interested in learning more about TCC’s maritime and skilled trades programs? Call 757-822-1111 or visit

TCC to pursue Domestic Maritime Center of Excellence designation

With support from its Congressional delegation, Tidewater Community College will pursue designation as a Domestic Maritime Center of Excellence, the college announced today.

The creation of these centers, which will help address the critical need for trained workers in the maritime industry, was approved as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018.

Now, the Department of Transportation and the Maritime Administration must establish an application and selection process, which may take months. As one of a handful of colleges meeting the statutory qualifications for becoming a Center of Excellence, TCC has already been actively engaged, President Edna V. Baehre-Kolovani said.

“We will be at the table as this process unfolds,” she said. “In the meanwhile, TCC will keep moving forward with expansion and promotion of maritime workforce education.”

The college offers education and skills training in pipefitting, inside machinist, marine welding, marine electrical, marine mechanical and maritime logistics.

Virginia’s two senators and representatives of Hampton Roads in Congress wrote to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao on Feb. 13 in support of TCC’s designation.

“Serving the fifth largest port in North American and the largest Naval Base in the world, TCC has a longstanding history of meeting the maritime workforce needs in the Hampton Roads region,” they wrote.

They also pointed to the Southeast Maritime and Transportation (SMART) Center, based at TCC, and the college’s partnerships with local, regional and national shipbuilding and ship repair companies, such as Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding, AMSEC and BAE Systems.

“For these reasons, we request you give full and fair consideration to designate Tidewater Community College a Domestic Maritime Center of Excellence, as we believe it is uniquely capable of helping secure our nation’s talent pipeline for the domestic maritime industry,” the letter states.

It was signed by Sen. Mark Warner and Sen. Tim Kaine, along with Rep. Rob Wittman (VA-01), one of the original patrons of the legislation, Rep. Scott Taylor (VA-02), Rep. Donald McEachin (VA-04), and Rep. Bobby Scott (VA-03).

“I am grateful for their support,” Kolovani said, noting that the Virginia General Assembly passed a resolution during its current session recognizing TCC on its 50th anniversary and for its qualifications to become a Domestic Maritime Center of Excellence.

She said that Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth recently awarded the college a new three-year contract to continue providing the academic component of the shipyard’s apprenticeship program, again demonstrating that the maritime industry recognizes TCC’s expertise in maritime education.