Yes, it’s possible – if you take the apprenticeship path.
Apprenticeships may have first been developed during the Middle Ages, but today they provide a 21st century path to higher education and a good career.
“Earn while you learn” registered apprenticeship programs allow students to take home a paycheck while gaining a college education and learning a marketable skill.
The employer wins, and so does the student.
“One of the myths about apprenticeship is it is an alternative to post-secondary education,” said Todd Estes, director of Tidewater Community College’s Apprenticeship Institute, which partners with local employers to develop registered apprenticeship programs.
“Apprenticeship is post-secondary education. You’re not just going into it for a job. You’re part of a development program that incorporates academic instruction. It is another means to achieving the same end,” he said.
Minus any student debt.
Currently, TCC works with employers offering apprenticeship opportunities in maritime and manufacturing; heating, ventilation, cooling and refrigeration; automotive; and mechatronics.
The college is actively seeking to expand its program into other high-demand areas, such as cybersecurity, health care and information technology. Currently, nearly 1,300 apprentices take part in opportunities through TCC.
Here’s how it works:
Employers provide on-the-job training; TCC provides the academic component. Programs range from one to six years, and upon completion, students receive a nationally recognized industry credential validating their proficiency.
TCC student Stephen Hight began his apprenticeship as an industrial engineering technician/technical writer for the marine services division of Oceaneering International Inc., four years ago.
He will graduate from TCC in December 2016 with an Associate of Applied Science in Maritime Technologies. He will also have his journeyman card, a portable credential that demonstrates he is proficient in a particular trade.
“Most students end up with over $30,000 in debt over student loans,” he said. “In an apprenticeship program, your books and tuition are free while you’re making around $120,000 in the course of four years.
“Plus, you get the best training for your trade and a journeyman card you can take anywhere with you.”
As actual employees of the companies that sponsor their apprenticeship, apprentices receive incremental raises and in most cases, company benefits.
“You’re making a wage. The employer is paying for your education,” Estes said. “Most of the employers have some level of educational assistance even after graduation.”
As apprenticeship incorporates hands-on, tangible training, prospective students should enjoy learning beyond the classroom. Apprentices take an active role in their education, but the academic component ensures they fulfill the critical thinking background necessary to be successful in college.
TCC has multiple partnerships throughout the region with employers that offer apprenticeships, including Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Colonna’s Shipyard and STIHL Inc.
If you’re interested in becoming a registered apprentice, you must first be hired by the sponsoring company. See www.tcc.edu/apprentice for a list of companies that TCC partners with.
For general information about apprenticeships, contact Todd Estes at 757-822-1784 or [email protected].
TCC STUDENT 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.”