More than a dozen newly minted apprentices celebrated their graduation earlier this month in the Newcomb Hall Ballroom as friends and family applauded.
The University of Virginia started its apprenticeship program in 1982, creating a pipeline of skilled tradespeople. The 11 men and three women who graduated Nov. 15 began their journeys in the program in 2019, and experienced many unique challenges during the past four years.
“This graduating class … spent most of their apprenticeship in pandemic conditions,” said Colette Sheehy, senior vice president for operations, during the ceremony. “This class completed 3.5 out of 4 years of classroom instruction online rather than the traditional in-person format and spent much longer periods of time in fewer rotations.”
In her remarks, Sheehy said she enjoys the opportunity to celebrate people’s successes, and noted that 244 tradespeople have graduated from the Apprenticeship Program since its inception. She noted that, with the graduation of three female apprentices, UVA has now had 20 women complete the program.
The Apprenticeship Program has seen many changes in programming, leadership and structure throughout its decades-long tenure, especially within the last few years. In 2021, the program launched its new hybrid model, which gives apprentices an opportunity to experience four main construction trades within Facilities Management during their first two years, and then choose a specialty for their final two years. Apprentices gain experience and a broader understanding of the complexities of the construction and maintenance processes at the University through onsite classroom education and hands-on training.
Marcus Klaton, a former plumbing apprentice graduate who is now a supervisor in the energy and utilities department, served as master of ceremonies for this year’s graduation. He recounted his days as an apprentice and how that experience launched his career.
Donald Sundgren, associate vice president and chief facilities officer, said the apprentices worked across all operational teams at Facilities Management, completed hands-on competency assessments and then were matched with permanent “home zones.”
“This class, one of our largest in recent years, has come a long way in its four years on the job,” Sundgren said. “We are extremely proud of each and every one of you and excited for you to continue on your career journey at the University.”
The graduates included electricians Joshua Cunningham, Garrett Hatmaker, Charlie Henderson, Rebecca Hord, Bryce Humphreys and Hunter Monroe; heating, ventilation and air conditioning mechanics Ashley Bell, Travis Castellanos, Pedro Gonzalez and Blake Shifflett; and plumbers Allen Anderson, John DeBilzan, Ryan McCarthy and Gabriel Reedy.
Hord entered the program after graduating from William Monroe High School in Greene County. “I was not sure at first, but then I found I loved working with my hands,” she said.
Hord, who has been assigned to North Grounds, is continuing her education online, studying project management.
Kathleen Ford and Richard Bonnie presented the Ed Ford Outstanding Apprentice Graduate Award, for apprentices who “made outstanding contributions to their workplace,” to Ryan McCarthy and Pedro Gonzalez.
Named after Edward R. Ford, a U.S. Navy veteran and mason who founded his own construction company, the award was established in 2016 at Facilities Management by Ford’s daughter Kathleen to honor his memory and continue his legacy.
The UVA Apprenticeship Program was the first of its kind to be established by a state agency in Virginia and has been a model for other programs. Many of its graduates go on to make a career at the University.