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Student career success stories

Meet four TCC students and graduates who have found fulfilling careers at Hampton Roads companies.

Ashley WilbEr

Tired of dead-end jobs, she found a promising future at TCC as a shipyard apprentice


Age: 29

Hometown: Virginia Beach

Degree: Ashley was an apprentice program participant with BAE Systems Norfolk Shipyard Repair. She earned her Career Studies Certificate in Maritime Technologies in 2010.

Employer: Ashley is an apprentice instructor and craft supervisor at BAE Systems Norfolk Shipyard Repair.

Why TCC: “I got tired of dead-end jobs, going to work and really not having a career. I felt like the apprenticeship was something that would allow me to grow within the company, and I could learn a trade. I had never been in the shipyard until I entered the apprenticeship in 2006. I picked welding because welding is everywhere, got chosen and worked hard.”

On the job: “I’m on the apprenticeship committee board, so I'm part of picking who gets into the program. It's a great opportunity for those coming straight out of high school and don't have any experience. That's what we look for in choosing the apprentices. We're not looking for someone with a lot of experience because then we’re not doing anything for them. We want to bring them in, train them and prepare them for management one day as a goal.”

Her experience at TCC: “The professors worked with you. Most of them also have full-time jobs, and they know you just came from your full-time job. They work with your schedule. If you didn't understand something, they helped you out.”

Advice for other students: “Make sure it's what you want to do. Do your research. It's a great opportunity,. There are a lot of perks with being an apprentice: job security for four years and once you graduate with that journeyman's card, you can go almost anywhere.”

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Josh Mullins

A vet who's now working for Dominion Power, Josh uses what he learned at TCC every day


Age: 26

Hometown: Williamsburg Degree: Associate of Applied Science-Electromechanical Controls Technology (EMCT), 2011

Employment: Josh is a systems protection technician trainee for Dominion Virginia Power. He was hired as part of the company's Troops to Energy program because of his four years of service in the U.S. Air Force.

Why TCC: “I've always loved using my hands and I've been intrigued by electricity for as long as I can remember. I even did some residential wiring in high school. I chose TCC because of the EMCT program. It was a good fit because the theoretical work was paired with a great deal of hands-on training.”

His experience at TCC: “I enjoyed the depth and breadth of the classes offered in the program, including my electives in renewable energy. I like the idea of protecting the environment by using alternate power sources.”

Finding a job after college: Josh was initially hired as a groundsman with Dominion Power and has quickly moved forward with his career. “I'm using what I learned at TCC every day and enjoying the work and the people immensely.”

Advice for other students: “Don't give up. I know it's tough to balance work, family and school, but in the end it's so worth it. Obtaining this degree has changed my life. I have new house, a new car and a secure job. I can honestly say that I would not be where I am without this degree.”

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Sopheap Bumgarner

Studying at TCC will help this marine electrician advance in her career


Age: 30

Hometown: Newport News

Degree: Sopheap earned an associate of science in social science in 2011. She will complete her associate of applied science in maritime technologies by December 2014.

Employment: Marine electrician for AMSEC, a subsidiary of Huntington Ingalls Industries since 2009.

Why TCC: Sopheap enrolled in the maritime technology program to enhance her skills and position herself for increased opportunity within her company. After TCC, she plans to continue studying at Old Dominion University. “TCC is a stepping stone,” Sopheap said. “I have the background as an electrician, but I want to learn the business aspects so I can move up in the company.” While she learned to be an electrician in the Navy, she said, “The Navy only teaches you, but it's mainly how to fix stuff. They don't give you the background or really an in-depth understanding. That's what TCC gave me. The more I learned the theory behind everything, the more I've been able to enjoy my job.”

What she liked about TCC: “I've taken classes on every campus. I really love the Beach Campus. The people, the teachers were awesome, especially the apprenticeship teachers. They're prior service, so they get you; they understand you. They can connect with you. You talk about your sea stories and you learn what not to do. That's great. I got a lot of help from Professor Thomas Stout. I never had him as a professor personally, but he was always there to help the apprentices. He knew me, but I was never in his class. That's awesome.”

Advice to a potential student: “It's going to be tough at first. Don't quit in the beginning because it's hard. Once you get past a semester, you'll be OK. In the beginning, it's all books, but then it becomes hands on.”

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Oscar Saunders

TCC resources, including tutoring and student activities, provide “the full college experience”


Age: 28

Hometown: Portsmouth

At TCC: Oscar is enrolled in the four-year apprentice program, which provides the academic training required for a trade, a Technician Career Studies Certificate upon completion, and a competitive wage throughout. During the last three years of the program, students learn on the job at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Oscar plans to be an inside machinist.

Why TCC: “TCC provides the opportunity to provide a long-term career for myself versus a job that's dead-end with no full-time benefits. I felt like I was approaching an age where I needed to start setting the future not just for myself but for my family. This program prepares me to do so. I love the whole concept of it. They’re taking people who don't have any experience and giving them an opportunity to create their own future. It's also nice to be paid while you’re going to school, and we get raises every six months.”

Using TCC's resources: “TCC has a lot of great resources. If you need help, the tutoring center is right downstairs. They have forums, on-campus functions and student activities to get involved in. They give you a full college experience.”

Advice for other students: “Use your time wisely, because you’re provided all the time you need to get things done. They don't set it up for you to fail. You hold the key to your own fate.”

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Stephen Hight

As an apprentice, he earns while he learns, working toward an associate degree in maritime technologies.


Age: 28

Hometown: Chesapeake

Degree: Stephen is an apprentice and is earning his associate in applied science in maritime technologies. He plans to graduate from TCC in 2017.

Employer: Stephen is an industrial engineering technician/technical writer apprentice for the marine services division of Oceaneering International, Inc., a global provider of engineering services and products primarily to the offshore gas and oil industry. The marine services division provides engineering support and intermediate repair services to the U.S. Navy. Stephen was hired as an apprentice in the first apprentice class in January 2013.

The benefits of the TCC program: Stephen is a full-time employee and receives 2,000 hours of on-the-job training annually, while completing his apprentice-related instruction at night through TCC. He qualified for the Virginia Vocational Incentive Scholarship Program for Shipyard Workers, which pays all tuition and fees for three years of his four-year apprenticeship.

Why TCC: “I like the wide range of classes offered at TCC. I like that I can have a 40-hour a week and still be a full-time student. If your aspirations are high, you can do that, or you can take part-time classes and graduate in a reasonable amount of time.

“The resources that TCC provides are great as far as tutoring, online training and the instructors. The instructors are usually people who are already in the field, so you get a lot of great advice from people trained to do what you’re training to do. Right up front, they give you their cell phone number, so you can call them with questions. If for some reason you can't make a class, they always allow you to go to another class and make up that time. They always work around your schedule, which is very, very nice.”

Advice for a student interested in the apprenticeship program: “Get into TCC to start with. Apprenticeships are so competitive with literally thousands of people applying for minimal jobs, so my suggestion is to get a head start and enroll yourself in vocational classes. Try to separate yourself grade-wise, and get as much background as you can to make yourself more competitive.”

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Tony Helton

He chose TCC because of its veteran-friendly reputation


Age: 40

Hometown: Chesapeake

Degree: Certificates in Marine Diesel and Welding, 2012

Employer: Tony is a marine mechanic and a welder for Blue Water Yacht Sales in Hampton. The company sells and repairs boats and operates a boat yard.

Why TCC? “I was medically retired from the Army after being injured during a tour of duty in Iraq. Once I recovered, I needed to retrain and found my way with the help of the TCC Veterans Affairs office staff at the Portsmouth Campus. I chose TCC because of its reputation for being veteran friendly, which I found to be true. My passion is fishing and boating, so I decided to turn those interests into a career.”

His experience at TCC: “My instructors offered real-world experience and hands-on training that prepared me for the work ahead. They took the time to explain the material and engage students. Their goal was student learning, and it showed in every area.”

Finding a job after college: “My military background and TCC training gave me the skills needed to land this job, and it’s been a great fit. My days are never boring, as the boats are all different and the weather is always changing. After my time in the Army, I’ve learned to be grateful for every day. Life is not so bad when you are going home at the end of the day.”

Advice for a student interested in maritime work: “Stick with it! If you have a calling, so to speak, get that education because it’s worth everything. Tough it out, and when you get that degree or certificate, you are on your way to the job you were made to do. That’s what happened for me. Now if I could figure out a way to fish while on the water working, that would be even better!”

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jessica spencer

TCC degree gave her the chance to further her career


Age: 30

Hometown: Portsmouth

Degree: Associate of Applied Science – Industrial, 2013

Employment: Jessica is a quality assurance nuclear coordinator at Electric Motor and Contracting in Chesapeake, which rebuilds and repairs industrial motors in a variety of fields, including nuclear, marine and water treatment.

Why TCC: “They were local and offered a degree specific to quality assurance. That’s not readily available at other places.”

Her experience at TCC: “I really liked the fact that there were night classes available for just about anything. It was very rare that I couldn’t find something during the spring and fall, and most semesters I took a full credit load. I liked that TCC had professors who had actually worked in quality assurance. They could give examples based on their experience.”

Benefit of the degree: Jessica started at her current company as a receptionist after being laid off from a previous position. She moved into a position as assistant quality assurance manager, and a promotion required a degree. “My company supported the degree fully, so that gave me the incentive to do it. It was a great opportunity to further my career.”

Advice for other students considering a career in quality assurance: “You don’t always make friends in quality assurance, but if you like to be involved in ensuring things get done right and strive for doing things better, it’s definitely a career that has its rewards.”

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dan erwin

TCC’s trucking program cost less and was high quality


Age: 31

Hometown: Norfolk

Employment: Truck driver for G&K Services, Portsmouth, since 2009

Certification: Graduated in 2007 with a Career Studies Certificate from TCC’s 16-credit, eight-week Truck Driving Program. Dan also earned his Class A Commercial Driver’s License through the program.

Why TCC: Dan previously worked in a warehouse and was seeking a more secure, higher-paying opportunity. He had never driven a commercial truck before but considered TCC’s trucking program noting, “It’s something you can do relatively quickly and inexpensivly that can lead to an increase in pay.”

His experience at TCC: “I liked the quality of the program. The classes weren’t too large, so you had plenty of time to become comfortable with the equipment and what was expected. The instructors were very knowledgeable, so that made it easy to pick up on the information and learn to maneuver the vehicle. They did an excellent job of delivering the information. I’ve heard different stories about other programs that cost more. TCC’s program was very affordable.”

Advice for a student considering a trucking career: “If you want to go into trucking, your schedule needs to be flexible. It’s not guaranteed that you will have a consistent work schedule.”

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mike treadwell iii

Professors at TCC have ‘real-world experience’


Age:  28

Hometown: Gloucester

Degree:  Mike is an apprentice program participant with the marine services division of  Oceaneering International Inc., a global provider of engineering services and products primarily to the offshore gas and oil industry. The marine services division provides engineering support and intermediate repair services to the U.S. Navy.

Employment:  Mike is an Army veteran working as an inside machinist for Oceaneering International, Inc. He works full time and takes classes in the evenings. “I’ve always wanted to do this kind of work. Ever since high school metal shop, I’ve had the creative bug to create things. It really is my passion to take raw materials and fabricate parts to be installed on marine vessels and submarines. I absolutely love what I do.”

Why TCC: “TCC works for me because of my company’s commitment to this newly launched apprentice program. They partner with the college for the educational side of our training.”

His experience at TCC:
 “I like TCC because the instructors are knowledgeable and have real-world experience. They take the time to let students absorb the material and make sure that we meet our full potential. The diversity of locations and college events add to the college experience.”

On the job: “The education offered will lead to my associate degree and hopefully move me into a supervisory role in the company. It’s been exciting to be in the initial group for the apprentice program. It’s the best opportunity I could have asked for this at this stage of my life.”

Advice for other students:  “Come open minded and absorb all you can. Understand that teachers are here to teach, so listen. You have to work to learn, so put in the time.”

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