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Memorial Day Closure

TCC will be closed Monday, May 27, in observance of the Memorial Day holiday.

Technical Studies degree now offered 100% online with no textbook cost

A year after Tidewater Community College launched an associate degree designed specifically for skilled workers who need formal education to advance their careers, the program is becoming even more flexible for its students.

Starting this fall, TCC’s Associate of Applied Science in Technical Studies with a Specialization in Technical Supervision can be completed 100% online and students will pay nothing for textbooks.

That’s more good news for the degree that continues to garner industry support.

“We came to TCC because we saw the need for our employees and worked together to develop a program that would award credit for technical knowledge and work experience,” said George Faatz, director of growth & strategic planning at Virginia Natural Gas. “TCC heard us, acted on it and created a program that fits our needs and the needs of many in the Hampton Roads workforce.”

Students in the program can be awarded as many as 23 credits for relevant job-related training and prior professional experience, a plus for skilled workers who don’t have two years to dedicate solely to academics to earn an associate degree.

Since the program launched in partnership with Old Dominion University, companies including Busch Manufacturing, LLC, Oceaneering and Virginia Natural Gas have come on board.

Participating companies cover tuition and fees for their employees. As the program is now part of the college’s Z-Degree, students will use open educational resources instead of traditional textbooks. That translates to paying nothing for textbooks.

In addition to offering all classes online, students can also continue the face-to-face option if they prefer.

Moving forward

Mike Petrice, organizational development manager at Busch, joined two of his apprentices in pursuing the degree last year.

“Getting credits for past work was a huge morale booster and what gave me the motivation to keep going,” Petrice said. “I’ve been in manufacturing for 32 years and managing people for over 20 years. The material I’m learning in class often gives me that ‘Oh, now I know why we do it that way effect,’” he said.

Petrice received the maximum of 23 credits given his background, meaning he needs 37 more to earn his associate degree. He recommended the program to all the employees in Busch’s machine shop. “I thought I’d be the oldest student in the class at my age, 49,” he said. “But once I got there, I’m right in the middle. It’s a comfortable environment.” 

Coursework focuses on industrial supervision, technical writing, information literacy, quality assurance, team concepts and problem-solving and more.

Ken Magee, newly named manager of community affairs with Virginia Natural Gas, is anticipated to be the first student to earn the degree, completing coursework requirements this summer. He plans to transfer to Old Dominion University’s industrial technology program. Magee is one of four employees in the program from Virginia Natural Gas recently promoted to supervisory or management roles.

With the graying of the workforce in the industrial and manufacturing sectors, education and professional development are essential for the Hampton Roads economy.

“We are seeing plenty of retirements, creating opportunities for people to move up,” Faatz said. “This degree prepares employees for supervisory, management and ultimately, leadership roles.”

Guy St. John, apprentice program manager at Oceaneering, agreed. “We are responsible for bringing up new craftsmen, as well as supervisors and leaders. 

“The Technical Studies degree is a continuation of what these employees are learning in their trade and advances their knowledge in other areas, including supervision, communication and advanced technical skills.”

Want to learn more?

For more information on how your organization can get employees on track with the Technical Studies degree, email Karen Miller, program coordinator of the college’s Apprentice Institute, at

Prospective students can contact the new student support team @ for information.

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