A celebratory event marked the start of the expansion of Tidewater Community College’s Skilled Trades Academy (STA) in Portsmouth.
The expansion will provide an additional 12,000 square feet of space for workforce training.
The STA opened in 2019 and is currently a 20,000-square-foot academy, located at 3303 Airline Blvd. It is one of the largest trade academies run by a community college on the East Coast and the only one of its kind in Virginia. It provides short-term workforce training for in-demand careers in construction, maritime trades and more.
“We are growing because we want to address our workforce needs in the community,” said TCC President Marcia Conston. “Students come here with no background in the skilled trades and leave with skills that enable them to provide for their families long term.”
TCC student Jacob Talmage came to the STA to train for a new career. “I saw the welding program on TCC’s website, decided to give it a try, and now I’m working full-time as a welder in the maritime industry,” he said.
The expansion of the facility comes at a time when 79 percent of Hampton Roads businesses express concerns about training employees.
Portsmouth Mayor Shannon Glover shared his enthusiasm for the expansion of the academy. “Thank you TCC team for direct action to meet the demand for skilled workers in our region,” Mayor Glover said. “We know that as we give people a future, we are saving their lives.”
The current trades offered at the academy are marine coating, pipefitting, pipe laying, welding, carpentry, roofing, sheet metal, wind energy and electric vehicle repair. The expansion will increase program capacity in these offerings by 63 percent.
In addition, the expansion will increase program offerings by 33 percent. New programs include building maintenance, heavy equipment operator, logistics, shipfitter, electrical and HVAC.
The event was sponsored by Elizabeth River Crossings OpCo (ERC) and Virginia Ship Repair Association (VSRA) and TCC’s Educational Foundation.
ERC Chief Executive Officer Anna Bonnet reflected on their commitment to supporting student success and now expanding that commitment to grow the academy. “We are proud to provide significant financial support for this expansion project,” she said. “As an infrastructure company that connects our cities through tunnels and roads, we are pleased to now connect our region’s workforce to higher-paying, more stable careers.”
TCC Educational Foundation board member Fred Pasquine noted that the STA is a place where people are able to work with their hands and their minds. Pasquine also serves on the VSRA advisory board, giving him a unique perspective on student success. “TCC is equipped to help students succeed with training opportunities,” Pasquine said. “But they can’t do it alone. It takes industry engagement to meet the needs of our community.”
To date, 96 percent of students who are certified in training programs through the STA are hired by regional employers. They are career-ready and have the in-demand trade skills, as well as the soft skills needed to succeed on the job.