Patrecia Gary, the trades center coordinator at the new Toano facility, stands among the 10 welding bays.
Mason Barton, who lives in Williamsburg, is in the first evening welding class at Virginia Peninsula Community College’s new trades center in Toano. The facility is about a 20-minute drive from his home, but only a few minutes from his work.
He’s liking it much better than the 35-minute drive he took to the Hampton campus for his CDL classes.
“It’s nice to have a building that opened up close to us,” he said. “The only other program that was near me would be down in Petersburg or Richmond.”
With his work schedule, he wouldn’t be able to get there in time for their evening classes. However, with VPCC’s skilled trades classes being offered in upper James City County, that’s not an issue. His class runs from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
“I work two minutes down the road from here,” he said. “It’s perfect scheduling for me. I’ll be here before it even hits 4 o’clock.”
Patrecia Gary, the trades center coordinator at the facility, said one of the students in the morning class is from New Kent.
“I was happy to hear that. This is really great,” she said.
The facility, which is about 7,800 square feet, is at 236 Industrial Boulevard. There are two classrooms and a break room, but most of the space is for equipment and work areas, which includes 10 welding bays.
“Isn’t it nice?” she said looking around and noting she has worked in many warehouses. “I was happy (with this one).”
Classes there began Feb. 20 with two welding cohorts, one from 7 a.m.-noon, and the other from 4:30-9:30 p.m. Eventually, there also will be carpentry, CNC machining and masonry classes at the facility. Carpentry is scheduled to start in April.
Gary attended a recent career fair at Warhill High School in Williamsburg, and attendees expressed interest in the programs.
“I had one student who already signed up, but he wasn’t eligible until he’s 18. He’s a 2023 graduate so he will be starting in the fall,” she said. “There is some buzz.”
Gary, who started in her position at the end of November, said James City County and local organizations have been very supportive of the College and the center. Many attended a tour of the facility.
“It’s exciting,” she said.
Barton is a machine operator and dump truck driver for the Virginia Department of Transportation. He anticipates taking other classes when he’s done with welding. He wants to develop skills to position himself for a better job, as well as help him with his hobbies. He’s building a car, and knowing how to weld will come in handy.
“When I walked in here in for orientation, it was impressive,” he said of the facility. “It blew me away walking through here. You could see the quality in the work, how the building looks nice. It was a brand-new building. It looks good.”
In January 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded the College $1.7 million through its Strengthening Community College training grants program. The funds had to be used for skilled workforce programs.For more information on the College’s new trades center, go to https://www.vpcc.edu/workforce/trade-center/index.html.