What started with an idea and talks between leaders at Tidewater Community College and Chesapeake Public School six years ago will culminate on May 13 when 52 students from the city graduate with career and technical training credentials.
Thanks to a partnership between TCC and CPS, these high school graduates are prepared for in-demand careers in areas that range from mechatronics to pharmacy technology to welding.
Made for mechatronics
Fifteen dual-enrolled mechatronics students will graduate with their Career Studies Certificate in Mechatronics.
They started taking classes in their home high schools as sophomores and spent part of their junior and senior years on TCC’s Chesapeake Campus training in state-of-the-art labs.
Classes have covered industrial robotics programming, digital systems, electric motor control, programmable logic control and instrumentation.
“Our industry leaders tell us that they are in need of skilled technicians, and our graduates are well prepared for the work ahead,” said Thomas Stout, dean of science, engineering, math and technology. “We’re proud of this first cohort, as they are paving the way for many students to follow.”
The graduates will ultimately work on advanced manufacturing systems, often referred to as “smart” devices, in the areas of machinery design, construction and repair.
Thanks to partnerships with the city’s Department of Economic Development and the advanced manufacturing sector, all of these students were awarded full scholarships by area firms. Donor companies include Mitsubishi Chemical Composites America, Sumitomo Machinery Corporation of America, USUI USA, Yupo Corporation of America, GeoQuip Inc., Air Systems, Inc., Manufacturing and Design Technology, Inc., Nitto Inc. and Towne Bank.
Jemimah Barnes, a senior at Deep Creek High earning her mechatronics certificate, plans to study electrical engineering at Morgan State University. “I’ve enjoyed the program and feel well prepped for college,” she said. “I’ve gained technical skills and learned so much.”
Dylan Starowicz, a Great Bridge High senior, added, “It’s been great to get a head start on my associate degree, and now I’m sure I want to do this as a career.”
Mechatronic students also earned industry credentials and can apply all their credits to an Associate of Applied Science in Mechatronics, which they can complete in just one year.
Working the circuit
Across the hall from the mechatronics lab, the second cohort of Electrical Wiring for Technicians students has worked to earn career studies certificates.
The class of 14 spent one academic year studying residential wiring and methods for industry. They also earned their Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA 10 cards, which certify them in industry safety standards. They are prepared for entry-level positions as electrician helpers.
“I’m amazed at how this class has turned out,” said Patrick Billups, a senior at Hickory High. “I learned the basics for less money, and the instructors have been really helpful.”
Instructor Bob Shanks, a master electrician who joined the college in the mid-’90s, added, “Students come in without any knowledge, and we can teach them from the ground up. I like it that way because we don’t have to undo any bad habits.”
Pharmacy technicians of tomorrow
The Pharmacy Technician program is another first for CPS and TCC dual enrollment programs with the initial cohort of eight students graduating with career studies certificates.
Students spent one academic year at the Chesapeake Career Center in a classroom fitted with a mock pharmacy that includes a counter, cash register and plenty of “products” to dispense.
They are prepared to order, stock, package, prepare and dispense medication under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist. They can also sit for the national pharmacy tech exam to become certified pharmacy technicians.
“Now I have work I can do while in college, and I get a boost ahead since I already have this knowledge,” said J’La Edwards, a senior at Indian River High who plans to continue at TCC and attend pharmacy school at Hampton University.
Another hot career
With masks on and sparks flying, 15 students honed skills by earning welding certificates at the Chesapeake Career Center.
The two-year program covered oxyacetylene (gas) welding, arc welding and inert gas-shielded techniques.
Jason Walters, from Deep Creek High, plans a career in welding. “I love welding because I get to work with my hands. I enjoy the teamwork and learning new skills, too.”
Upon completion of the program, students can sit for certification exams through the American Welding Society.