While the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Virginia Peninsula Community College’s new James City County trades center isn’t until April 13, it will open for classes Feb. 20.
The first students through the doors will be in the SMAW (shielded metal arc welding) cohort, one of four programs that eventually will be held at the Toano facility.
“The plan is to bring the rest of the classes on later this spring,” Todd Estes, the vice president of Workforce Development and Innovation, said in reference to machining, carpentry and masonry. “The next course, most likely because we’re onboarding an instructor right now, will be carpentry, but the dates are still TBD.”
The classes will be relatively small at the start, which Estes said isn’t unusual.
“Whenever you start up a new facility, a new program, you have to build some momentum,” he said. “We’re still recruiting for both classes.”
Estes said the roughly 7,800 square-foot facility has the capacity for 10 students per class. Most of that square footage is in shop floor space, but there are two classrooms, and a breakroom that can be converted into another classroom. Depending on the schedules, all four programs could have classes at the same time.
The lengths of the classes vary, from six weeks for SMAW to about 15-16 for carpentry depending on what credentials and certificates are involved.
The new trades center is important to the residents in that area as well as the College.
“We’re expanding access to skills trade training in a region that otherwise would not have easy access to that type of training,” Estes said.
The Toano facility is about 35 miles from the College’s other trade center in Hampton. That isn’t convenient for JCC residents.
“This is, obviously, the very upper end of our service region, so it really helps us reach communities and folks that otherwise would have a real hard time accessing this training,” he said.
Chris Johnson, the director of economic development for JCC, said it’s a terrific opportunity for area residents, especially those not pursuing college degrees.
“To be able to get access to skilled trade facilities such as that and have it here in our community is a great advantage for us,” he said.
That training can lead to industry certifications, and better jobs in the skilled trades.
“We’re very excited for that to be opening,” Johnson said, noting there is a need for those types of workers in the county as well as surrounding locations. “it’s an exciting prospect for not just James City, but for Williamsburg and York as well, to have some of that coming up north here in our area versus having to go down to the lower peninsula for it.”
For more information on the College’s workforce development programs, go to https://www.vpcc.edu/workforce/index.html.