NORFOLK, Va. – The Norfolk Department of Utilities has developed a six-month paid apprenticeship program that trains full-time equipment operators and utility maintenance mechanics.
The program included classroom training, hands-on demonstrations, and on-the-job work experience with repair and maintenance crews.
After partnering with the Department of Human Resources and the City’s Civil Service Commission, the program began to take shape with the application criteria and a full curriculum of classes, demonstrations and certifications.
Classroom sessions and demonstrations were held on Mondays and Fridays, and apprentices spent the remaining time gaining on-the-job work experience with repair and maintenance crews.
“Equipment operators and maintenance mechanics are important positions and essential for the maintenance of our water production, water distribution and wastewater collection systems,” said Kristen Lentz, Director of Utilities. “With an abundance of vacant positions, the Department decided to take a new approach by creating an apprentice program to help fill these crucial needs.”
Open recruiting began in June and included outreach to residents in the St Paul’s Area, which is currently undergoing a 10-year revitalization project. More than 150 applications were received and 46 applicants were selected as eligible candidates. After holding interviews, final selections were made for the 15 operations apprentice positions.
Based on the candidates’ interests, the group was split among three divisions: Water Production, Water Distribution and Wastewater. The mechanics were assigned to the Moores Bridges Water Treatment Plant and the equipment operators at water and wastewater maintenance facility.
On August 20, the apprentices began their employment and over six months they were integrated into maintenance crews and worked alongside a mentor to help them learn all aspects of their jobs.
“The program equipped the apprenctices with new skills and abilities for employment and played an important role in the first steps of the St. Paul’s area project,” said Lentz.
Eleven apprentices successfully completed the program and are eligible to apply for permanent vacant positions. On the one-year anniversary of full-time employment, graduates will be eligible for a one-time monetary bonus of $1,000.