Applicants needed for free trade skills program

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – A local skilled trades program is looking for applicants.

The “Connecting Opportunities” program is getting ready to start up its first two cohorts to teach trade skills for in-demand construction and maritime trades such as welding, roofing, pipefitting, and sheet metal work.

It’s a partnership between Tidewater Community College, Virginia Career Works, and Elizabeth River Crossings, which is paying for the tuition of students.

“We’re going to provide $65,000 a year for the next three years and that should be enough money to put around 30 people a year through the program,” said Doug Wilson, CEO of Elizabeth River Crossings.

Wilson says they saw the need for those with trade skills for industries in the area and approached the other two partners about creating the program.

“They are high-paying jobs. They’re very stable,” he said about the open opportunities in Hampton Roads. “There’s a lot of satisfaction that comes from building something. There’s a large community in Hampton Roads for whom this is a great way to build a career and a life.”

The program is looking to enroll 30 people each year from a targeted audience: “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed Adults,” or ALICE. Program organizers say 45 percent of the population of Norfolk and Portsmouth are part of this demographic.

“They’re working adults but they’re not working or making enough to sustain their households,” said Nancy Stephens, who is the senior director for Virginia Career Works Hampton Roads Region. The organization falls under the Hampton Roads Workforce Council.

Stephens says the program is only a couple of weeks, both day and night classes are provided, and it’s free.

“There’s no cost for the training to the individual. That’s a saving of two to three to four thousand dollars,” she said.

Stephens says they’re looking specifically for applicants who are between 18 and 24 years old, adults that fall into the ALICE demographic, and veterans or those transitioning out of the military.

The program will not only educate those selected, but will place them with staff members who guide them through the process to talk about the skills they’ll learn as well as the trade.

Students will also be checked on throughout their first year in their careers, according to Stephens, who believes this will make an impact in the community.

“What we’re hoping for is to really help change somebody’s future, to give them that satisfaction of getting up every day and going to work, being part of the team, learning new skills, taking the steps, seeing projects come to life and being a part of that project,” she said.

If you would like to apply, send in your application as soon as possible. The first classes start on March 16 and 17.

To apply, click here.