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Skilled Trades Academy expanding to offer more training options for students

A celebratory event marked the start of the expansion of Tidewater Community College’s Skilled Trades Academy (STA) in Portsmouth.

The expansion will provide an additional 12,000 square feet of space for workforce training.

The STA opened in 2019 and is currently a 20,000-square-foot academy, located at 3303 Airline Blvd. It is one of the largest trade academies run by a community college on the East Coast and the only one of its kind in Virginia. It provides short-term workforce training for in-demand careers in construction, maritime trades and more.

Mayor Shannon Glover with President Marcia Conston.

“We are growing because we want to address our workforce needs in the community,” said TCC President Marcia Conston. “Students come here with no background in the skilled trades and leave with skills that enable them to provide for their families long term.”

TCC student Jacob Talmage came to the STA to train for a new career. “I saw the welding program on TCC’s website, decided to give it a try, and now I’m working full-time as a welder in the maritime industry,” he said.

The program included a ceremonial wall demolition with speakers using sledgehammers to knock it down!

The expansion of the facility comes at a time when 79 percent of Hampton Roads businesses express concerns about training employees.

Portsmouth Mayor Shannon Glover shared his enthusiasm for the expansion of the academy. “Thank you TCC team for direct action to meet the demand for skilled workers in our region,” Mayor Glover said. “We know that as we give people a future, we are saving their lives.”

The current trades offered at the academy are marine coating, pipefitting, pipe laying, welding, carpentry, roofing, sheet metal, wind energy and electric vehicle repair. The expansion will increase program capacity in these offerings by 63 percent.

In addition, the expansion will increase program offerings by 33 percent. New programs include building maintenance, heavy equipment operator, logistics, shipfitter, electrical and HVAC.

The event was sponsored by Elizabeth River Crossings OpCo (ERC) and Virginia Ship Repair Association (VSRA) and TCC’s Educational Foundation.

Event speakers included Tamara Williams, President Marcia Conston, Anna Bonnett, Delceno Miles, Mayor Glover and student Jacob Talmage

ERC Chief Executive Officer Anna Bonnet reflected on their commitment to supporting student success and now expanding that commitment to grow the academy. “We are proud to provide significant financial support for this expansion project,” she said. “As an infrastructure company that connects our cities through tunnels and roads, we are pleased to now connect our region’s workforce to higher-paying, more stable careers.”

TCC Educational Foundation board member Fred Pasquine noted that the STA is a place where people are able to work with their hands and their minds. Pasquine also serves on the VSRA advisory board, giving him a unique perspective on student success. “TCC is equipped to help students succeed with training opportunities,” Pasquine said. “But they can’t do it alone. It takes industry engagement to meet the needs of our community.”

TCC students with Talmage (left).

To date, 96 percent of students who are certified in training programs through the STA are hired by regional employers. They are career-ready and have the in-demand trade skills, as well as the soft skills needed to succeed on the job.

“It’s been an amazing transformation and so fast.” – Jasmine Quinones, TCC student

Jasmine Quinones gave herself a life-changing career for her 37th birthday.

“I had a cleaning business before COVID. After the pandemic hit, I found myself out of work because many of my clients didn’t want me coming to their homes,” Jasmine said. “I decided I had to find something that would never leave me in that place again.”

Fast forward six months and Jasmine has a new career and for the first time, she and her three children are financially stable.

“Before I was working three jobs and barely making ends meet. We didn’t have extra money even for something from the Dollar Store,” Jasmine said.

Jasmine found support through the college’s Job Skills Training Program, where she learned soft skills, time management and was connected with TCC’s Skilled Trades Academy and short-term programs.

She started taking the Carpentry course in May 2022 and will complete the program this October.

Amazingly, Jasmine was recruited by Precon Marine, Inc, for a paid position during her second month in class. A representative came to the Skilled Trades Academy to speak to students about available positions.

“It was the biggest blessing of my life to start at Precon. I’m still in training there, but I’ll soon be using my carpentry skills in shipyards,” she said.

It’s long days for Jasmine with work, school and family responsibilities. She’s on the job by 7 a.m. And two days a week she heads to class after an 8-hour workday. On those days, she returns home both tired and energized by what she is learning. “It’s a struggle on those days, but 100 percent worth it,” she said.

Additionally, Jasmine earned her OSHA 10 safety certification through the Carpentry program. She has also learned how to read blueprints, install wall systems, floor systems, and use all the tools of the trade. At the end of the course, she will be a certified, entry-level carpenter.

“It’s been an amazing transformation and so fast. After six weeks on the job, I was able to pay all my bills and still have money left,” Jasmine said.

“It is night and day. We don’t have to have those conversations about money like we used to,” she added. “My kids have been humbled by the lack of things I was able to give them and I’m grateful to no longer be in that lifestyle.”

Jasmine’s skills and success have made her a standout in class, according to Michael Vander Werf, the Skilled Trades Program Manager for TCC. “Jasmine has demonstrated leadership abilities and is thriving in class and at her place of employment,” he said.

Jasmine hopes to inspire other women to give the skilled trades a try. “There are some amazing opportunities for young women who enjoy working with their hands and building things. I’m making it my mission to encourage women to get out there and just do it,” she said.

Jasmine is considering taking a heavy equipment operator class next. She’d like to operate a crane and work in the air conditioning!

Long term, Jasmine hopes to someday own her own business making custom furniture and housewares.

“Right now, I just want to get some extra sleep and enjoy time with my sons,” Jasmine said with a laugh. “But it’s wonderful to see the opportunities ahead.”

TCC grad trained for construction career in just a few weeks

Alexander Williams has a hard hat that he’s quite proud of. He has a full-time construction job with benefits, and great hours thanks to training offered through Tidewater Community College’s Center for Workforce Solutions.

TCC’s program provides introductory training as part of the National Center for Construction Education and Research. The class covers topics like basic safety, communication skills and introduction to construction drawings. Completing this curriculum gives graduates the basic skills needed to get a job or continue their education in any craft area of their choosing.

Williams learned about the program from his sister. “I enjoyed interacting with others in my classes and gaining those soft skills that are essential on the job,” he said.

Williams works for Hampton Roads Connector Partners where he is part of the environmental team. “Our job is to protect the land and the water supply. It’s a good job, with consistent hours and competitive pay,” he said.

Thanks to new funding from the state, more qualifying students can enroll in “G3” programs – Get a Skill, Get a Job and Get Ahead – for several fields, including construction. And many students can get the training using “G3” tuition assistance, allowing them to gain the skills they need for a good career without worrying about the cost.

Tamara Williams (no relation to Alexander Williams) is vice president of TCC’s Center for Workforce Solutions. She says, “Students who go through this construction portion of our program have jobs before they have credentials. The employers come in and they stay engaged. We don’t have anyone left for placement when the course ends.”

Williams is proud of how his new career will position his entire family for success. “The program was a great stepping stone into a career with forward mobility,” he said. “I have a 10-month-old son, a significant other and we are making it through,” Williams said.

“A lot of doors opened for me, and my life is significantly improved because of TCC,” he added.

According to Build Your Future Virginia, a carpenter in the commonwealth earns about $44,000 a year while an electrician earns about $67,000 a year.

The next introductory construction course begins this week. To register, visit here. Registration specialists are available Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., by calling 757-822-1234 or emailing