Apprenticeship program helps Norfolk’s St. Paul’s area residents learn skilled trades

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A city of Norfolk apprenticeship program is helping residents prepare for a future with trade skills.

The Norfolk Department of Utilities developed the six-month program to train equipment operators and utility maintenance mechanics for their water production, water distribution, and wastewater divisions.

According to the city, they provide water treatment, between two plants, to Norfolk, Virginia Beach, parts of Chesapeake, Suffolk, Isle of Wight, and military installations, totalling nearly one million people.

Public information specialist Rachel Gaul says their employees help keep the water high quality.

“Without the foundation that makes the system work, we wouldn’t have an amazing water system,” she said.

But it can be difficult to hire people to fill their vacancies.

It’s one of the reasons why they developed the program.

“To be an applicant, you have to have certain licenses, like a commercial drivers license (CDL), that can be a barrier to entry to obtain that. So, through the apprenticeship program, we actually gave them hands on training and skills to get those licenses and covered the costs of them,” she said. 

The first class just ended with 11 people completing the program. 

Gaul says 150 applicants applied, but 15 were selected.

While residents from all over the city applied, they specifically reached out to those living in the St. Paul’s area.

“The city manager gave us a directive. He asked how can we help elevate residents in St. Paul’s out of poverty and positively contribute to the revitalization of project,” she said.

St. Paul’s will soon be undergoing a years revitalization project that includes demolishing three public housing complexes and building mixed-income homes.

Gaul says they will be back out in the community again urging for residents to apply for their next program to help flourish the community from within. 

Now, they are getting ready for more apprentices.

“What we’re doing is reviewing it, meeting with the apprentices, what worked well, what improvements we can make. We just want to give them more training, more skills os when they come out, they’re ready to rock and roll,” she said.

On the one-year anniversary of the full-time employment, graduates of the program will be elgible for a one-time monetary bonus of $1,000 provided they have a favorable review, according to the city.

To learn more about the apprenticeship or to apply for job vacancies, visit https://www.norfolk.gov/Index.aspx?NID=512

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