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From here, go to work in advanced manufacturing

If you look at the fronts of McDonalds or Starbucks or even the student centers on Tidewater Community College’s campuses, you’ll see Alpolic®, a composite material that adds color and dimension and, of course, coverage to each building.

TCC graduate Dylan Starowicz is at work on the lamination line for Alpolic®, manufactured by Mitsubishi Chemical Composites America in Chesapeake.

At 19 years old, he is earning a competitive full-time salary with benefits. Starowicz earned his Career Studies Certificate in Mechatronics at the same time as his diploma from Great Bridge High.

“It’s a good idea to give people different avenues to go down, not just traditional college,” Starowicz said. “It’s important to get students to think about technical careers and branch out to try different things.”

Chesapeake Public School (CPS) dual-enrolled mechatronics students started taking classes in their home high schools as sophomores and spent part of their junior and senior years on TCC’s Chesapeake Campus training in state-of-the-art labs.

“The old manufacturing jobs don’t exist anymore. Now it’s all computer-controlled, and we are looking for people who can use their minds, not their backs,” said Bill Yannetti, president and CEO of Mitsubishi Chemical. “Students who’ve gone through the TCC program bring a definite skill set, and they have value in our company right away.”

Thanks to partnerships with the City of Chesapeake Department of Economic Development and the advanced manufacturing sector, all of the CPS dual-enrolled students were awarded full scholarships by area firms. Donor companies include Mitsubishi Chemical, Sumitomo Machinery Corporation of America, USUI USA, Yupo Corporation America, GeoQuip Manufacturing Inc., Air Systems, Inc., Manufacturing and Design Technology, Inc., Nitto Inc., and TowneBank.

Mechatronic students also earned industry credentials and can apply all their credits to an Associate of Applied Science in Mechatronics, which they can complete in just one year.

“Dylan is a breath of fresh air,” said Tim Elixson, production manager at Mitsubishi Chemical. “You actually can hear the education speaking for itself. He asks a lot of forward-thinking questions.”

“This is what the program was created for and I wish I had more candidates just like him.”

Starowicz monitors machinery, troubleshoots problems and ensures quality control of products coming off the line.

“There was a little learning curve at the start, but I’ve settled in,” he said. “I’m very fortunate to have this opportunity and see it as a stepping stone for my career.

“I feel like I’ve come full circle. They helped me out and now I’m working for them.”