Veterans employment organization looking for women veterans or military spouses to join trades program


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The Hampton Roads Veterans Employment Center is looking for women veterans, those transitioning out of the military, or military wives to apply for a program aimed at getting women into the ship repair and shipbuilding industry.

Early this year, the Women in Skilled Careers program launched as a way to fill jobs in an industry that traditionally has a low representation of women.

“It’s a huge industry in this area and women are underrepresented,” said Amy Rodriguez, who is a career developer for the HRVEC. “This is a phenomenal opportunity for women to get their foot in the door, to learn a skilled trade that will help provide them with a living wage and a skilled career path.”

Rodriguez says those at the HRVEC take pride in helping those associated with the military find careers.

“It’s a huge deal. It’s a personal thing for me and everyone who works in the center. Everybody that works here is either a veteran, a transitioning service member, a military spouse or both. The goal is to give back, to help the community, to make sure every veteran is taken care of, every military spouse is taken care of and that they get the services they need,” she said.

The next cohort starts in December and will offer four training paths: maritime coatings, sheet metal, maritime electrical, and outside machinist.

Unita Williams, who served in the U.S. Army, graduated from the program earlier this year and trained in maritime coatings.

“The program is awesome,” she said. “It was definitely a great opportunity to accept in my transition right now. I definitely gained a lot from the program.”

If needed, the program provides transportation and childcare as well as monetary incentives to help keep people in the program. Williams, who is a single mother, says the transition from the military has been rough but she found support from the program.

“They assist with everything and want you to succeed and be a part of the working industry,” she said.

The program also teaches soft skills and workplace readiness.

Williams actually received a job offer earlier this week because of the program and hopes others will see the same success she did.

“I want all the women out there, veterans and women in general to take advantage of the opportunity to move forward,” she said.

Those eligible for the program also include women 18 years of age or older who are earning at or below the federal poverty level, and/or transitioning out of homelessness, domestic violence, and/or human trafficking.

To apply or learn more, email or call 757-629-4702.

The Veterans Center is currently open by appointment only. You must visit their website to schedule an appointment, but if you lack the resources, you can stop by the center to receive help to set up an appointment.

All visitors are required to wear a face mask and complete a health screening, which includes a temperature screen. More information can be found at the Virginia Career Works website.

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