Local apprenticeship programs offer debt-free training

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TCC apprentice graduate Jessica Dunlap

Holding a bachelor’s degree in physics but saddled with student debt, Jessica Dunlap became frustrated with her fruitless job search. Fortunately, she was accepted in 2012 into Newport News Shipbuilding’s apprenticeship program as an electrical maintenance apprentice. In addition to learning on the job, she pursued an Associate of Science in Engineering at Tidewater Community College and graduated in May 2016. “It’s great to get paid to go to class,” said Dunlap, 33. “I already have school debt that I incurred years before, and I’m paying that off.”

Registered apprenticeship programs, like those at TCC, combine post secondary education with a full-time job and specialized, hands-on training.  Apprenticeships are sponsored by employers, employer groups and trade associations. The employers provide the on-the-job training while often partnering with local colleges to deliver the classroom instruction.

Classroom instruction is completed at the same time apprentices are actually working in the field. This allows them to immediately apply the knowledge gained in the classroom to a real-world setting. Programs typically range from one to six years. Upon completion, students receive a nationally recognized industry credential validating their proficiency. As employees of the companies that sponsor their apprenticeship, apprentices receive incremental raises and in many cases, company benefits.

“You’re thought of very highly as an apprentice,” Dunlap said. “It opens so many doors and helps with promotions. When you have that experience, they know what you’ve gone through, what you’ve learned and the professionalism you bring. A lot of apprentice grads become foremen and leaders. Once you’re an apprentice, the opportunities are endless.”

Looking to enter growing fields like maritime, advanced manufacturing, HVAC/R, automotive, mechatronics, information technology, cybersecurity, or business services through an apprenticeship? TCC partners with more than 20 apprenticeship-sponsoring companies in Hampton Roads! Learn how you can enroll in TCC’s Apprenticeship Institute today!

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