Virginia Community Colleges’ Mobile Lab to Increase Skilled Technicians in Hampton Roads

As the need for skilled technicians in prominent trade jobs increases, five area community colleges found a solution to increase the availability of training courses in Hampton Roads. The Hampton Roads Marine Skilled Trades Mobile Lab, within an 18-wheeler semi-trailer, is the latest solution from a historic partnership of Virginia’s Community Colleges (VCCS).

Thomas Nelson, Tidewater (TCC), Paul D. Camp, Rappahannock and Eastern Shore community colleges, along with Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) and VCCS have worked together to create a mobile unit that provides 80-120 hours of instruction at community colleges throughout Hampton Roads.

“There is power in partnership when multiple community colleges collaborate to respond to the needs of the greater community,” said Dr. John Dever, President of Thomas Nelson Community College. “Fueled by workforce training funds and supported by the resources and trades expertise of Newport News Shipbuilding, the results have been greater than any one of us can achieve on our own.

“Ninety-nine percent completed, 91 percent hired, that is 149 newly skilled workers in jobs earning $32,000 with benefits after just two or three weeks of training— now that’s a return on investment,” said Dever.

A ribbon cutting on Sept. 16 at 9 a.m. at the TCC Regional Workforce Development Center in Suffolk, Va. will signify the official opening of the mobile lab.

The mobile lab is housed in a 40-foot trailer, owned and operated by TCC. The trailer contains a mock-up for various training programs and replicates training labs available at the shipyard’s waterfront. The Surface Preparation and Coatings training program was the first class offered out of the lab, which provides interchangeable equipment for additional training programs.

TCC President Edna V. Baehre-Kolovani said that impending retirements in Hampton Roads industries are creating unprecedented demand for replacement workers.

“The growing need for skilled technicians in Hampton Roads, coupled with limited space at area colleges to meet the demand, generated a historic partnership among the region’s community colleges,” said Baehre-Kolovani. “The mobile lab is an innovative resource capable of visiting any community college campus in our area.”

The program affords trainees the opportunity to receive training in Marine Electrician, Surface Preparation and Coatings and Outside Machinists for $250. A welding program is currently being developed. Following successful completion of the training and hiring at the shipyard, candidates are reimbursed $250 by the NNS tuition reimbursement program.

The new mobile unit is evidence of the continued success of the Hampton Roads Marine Skilled Trades Training Program. Launched in 2011, the coalition has garnered many awards for its success including VCCS’s Expanding Workforce Opportunities Award.

“When we invest our energies, intelligence and resources in a common goal, we all win—the students, the colleges, the employer and most importantly our entire Hampton Roads region,” stated Dever.

For additional information about the Hampton Roads Marine Skilled Trades Training Program visit