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TCC’s Skilled Trades Academy to host open house on Saturday, April 27

Imagine training for a new career and being hired in just six weeks.

Tour Tidewater Community College’s Skilled Trades Academy on Saturday, April 27, for a firsthand look at available programs and specialized opportunities for in-demand construction and maritime trades that can lead to immediate employment.

TCC’s new Skilled Trades Academy at 3303 Airline Blvd., will host its inaugural open house and career fair from 9 a.m. to noon.

Meet our highly trained and qualified faculty, learn more about program and career options and talk with potential employers throughout that morning. Hampton Roads industry professionals will also have the opportunity to network with other business owners and apply for jobs.

The Skilled Trades Academy opened last December, coinciding with a critical workforce shortage in Hampton Roads, which anticipates 68 percent more job openings in skilled trades over the next five years than workers trained to fill them. Nationwide, 31 million skilled trade jobs will be vacated by baby boomers by 2020.

TCC offers a wide range of high-demand skilled trades training in marine coating, pipefitting, pipe laying, welding, framing, electrical, HVAC, roofing and sheet metal.

In some cases, participants can launch a new career with just six weeks of training.

“We can take people with zero background in skilled trades, put them through a three-week, pre-apprenticeship program and have them employed at a major shipyard making $18 an hour directly after,” President Gregory T. DeCinque said.

Thanks to funding through the FastForward Grant, many of the programs are available at little or no tuition cost. FastForward grants offset tuition costs so eligible students can earn an industry credential at one-third of the cost of tuition. In many cases, the student pays nothing.

“Many programs in these high-demand fields like welding, machine tool and HVAC are eligible for FastForward grant funding,” said Corey McCray, vice president for Workforce Solutions and interim executive vice president for Academic and Student Affairs. “That covers the vast majority of your tuition costs, so students would only have to pay about a third of the cost of their education.”

Reservations are recommended, but not required. RSVP at the Skilled Trades Academy open house page.

For more information, email or call 757-822-1234. For information on FastForward funding, contact career coach Alejandra Diaz-Rangel at

Want to FastForward your career? Talk with career coach Alejandra Diaz-Rangel

Alejandra Diaz-Rangel planned to be a Spanish teacher but after attending community college discovered something she enjoyed even more: helping others succeed.

As the FastForward career coach at Tidewater Community College, she’s doing just that.

“My job is to be with you from the moment you show interest until you gain employment or move up in the employment ranks,” she said.

FastForward is a short-term workforce credential program to train Virginians for in-demand jobs in fields that include medical billing and coding, clinical medical assisting, welding and multiple CompTIA certifications. FastForward grants offset tuition costs so eligible students can earn an industry credential at one-third of the cost of tuition.

“It’s affordable and it’s fast,” Diaz-Rangel said. “We’re talking about months not years.”

In some cases, FastForward can be nearly free.

“We’ve had students pay under $100 for an entire course,” she said. “That includes tuition, books, certification exams and study materials. You have to meet certain criteria.”

Diaz-Rangel knows how daunting any application process can be to some prospective students, so she makes it easy. She works one on one with interested students to find the proper fit given their goals and current skill set.  She’ll do this over the phone or in person.

Once a student is in a program, Diaz-Rangel remains in touch. She holds students accountable for attending open houses, orientations and classes.

Diaz-Rangel realized the importance of student support while attending Eastern Shore Community College, where she received her associate in general studies in just one year. Navigating everything from Blackboard to financial aid to a syllabus can be barriers; she makes sure they’re not for TCC students.

“If you have a support system, you can do anything,” she said. “I want to be that support system for someone else.”

Diaz-Rangel worked as a student success assistant at her alma mater before her transfer to Old Dominion University. At ODU she earned her bachelor’s in Spanish education and was hired as interim assistant director for international initiatives. Diaz-Rangel, who also holds a master’s in college counseling from ODU, started at TCC working with a pilot program that offers nutrition assistance to low-income individuals. In March she moved to her current role with FastForward.

Diaz-Rangel works largely with students who are either unemployed or underemployed. Many haven’t had jobs in years; others are seeking a promotion. One of the questions she routinely answers, “If I do this, what are my chances of getting a job?”

“There are plenty of resources out there,” she said. “We will help you with that.” She’s formed a partnership with the Career Services Center on the Virginia Beach Campus to provide job search assistance and soft skills training.

Her own mother has recently started taking classes in the program, which makes FastForward all the more personal to Diaz-Rangel.

“I treat students the way I would like someone to treat my family,” she says. “I understand with everyone I work with that they are people. Everyone is part of someone’s family.”

Interested in applying for a FastForward grant? Email Diaz-Rangel at or 757-822-1559.