TCC student Jessica Dunlap

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Tidewater_Jessica_Dunlap“Once you’re an apprentice, the opportunities are endless.”

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 apprentice program. Now, in addition to learning on the job, she is pursuing an Associate of Science in Engineering at TCC. She takes classes twice a week at TCC’s Tri-Cities Center and is graduating 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.

“Every 10 months they look at your grades in class and your shop grades. You can get merit raises and you can get time taken off of the hours you have to complete as an apprentice.”

She started as an electrical maintenance apprentice and, a year and a half later, was accepted into the shipyard’s Dimensional Control Advanced Program.

As a dimensional control technician, she performs industrial measurement surveys of ships and manufactured structures and components.

Once Dunlap completes her apprenticeship in October 2016, she will be a Metrology Technician II in the shipyard.

“You’re thought of very highly as an apprentice,” she 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.”

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