Participating in the ribbon-cutting were (from left): Patrecia Gary, Joseph Fuentes, TiJuana Gholson, Dr. Joyce Jarrett, Dr. Towuanna Porter Brannon, Thomas Cosgrove, Todd Estes, Shawn Avery and Geronimo Sutphin. All but Cosgrove (Newport News Shipbuilding) and Shawn Avery (Hampton Roads Workforce Council) are affiliated with VPCC.
Virginia Peninsula Community College showed off its new trades center in Toano with a ribbon-cutting ceremony April 13. And while the spotlight was on the College, VPCC president Dr. Towuanna Porter Brannon made sure to acknowledge it was a community effort.
“It's a beautiful center. It’s a beautiful facility, but it’s so much more than that,” she said. “This center is a symbol of progress and innovation, but also collaboration. … No one of us can do anything by ourselves.”
On hand to help celebrate were numerous industry partners, government officials and local school district representatives.
“While I’m happy to cut the ribbon and celebrate Virginia Peninsula Community College’s ability to expand access and expand its footprint, this is really a symbol of what it looks like when we work together to support the needs of not only the individuals that live in our community, but also the businesses that rely upon us to develop the talent that they need,” Brannon said.
The facility, which is 7,800 square feet, is in the upper end of James City County, just off Route 60 at 236 Industrial Boulevard. It opened Feb. 20 with welding classes. Carpentry classes begin April 17. Eventually, it will be home to two other programs as well - CNC machining and masonry.
The Peninsula Workforce Development Center in Hampton is almost 40 miles from the new facility, allowing the institution to reach new students.
“We know how important this facility will be to this community in providing access to affordable skills trade training in this part of our service region,” said Todd Estes, VP of Workforce Development at the College, noting a commute to Hampton from James City County and Williamsburg is a barrier to some students interested in learning a skills trade.
Brannon said the large turnout of officials shows how important the facility is to the region. She often speaks with area industry, business and education leaders who note the workforce needs in the next decade. The new trades center will not just provide economic opportunities for individuals, but also will benefit businesses.
“Our goal is always to make the Peninsula the ideal location for families to live, play, work and thrive,” Brannon said. “This is another example of how we, together, are committed to this work.”
She’s excited to bring access to high-demand skills to residents of Williamsburg, York County and James City County.
“I can’t wait to see what we will do together,” she said.
College officials showed off the 10 work areas for welding as well as the spaces for the other trades. The facility also has two classrooms, and a breakroom that can be converted into a third classroom.
In January 2021, the United States Department of Labor awarded the College $1.7 million through its Strengthening Community College training grants program for the facility.For more information on the College’s workforce development programs, go to https://www.vpcc.edu/workforce/index.html.