July 22, 2010 — The University of Virginia's Division of Facilities Management honored five graduates of its apprenticeship program and 17 inductees into the program at a ceremony at Alumni Hall Wednesday.
Leonard W. Sandridge, who will retire as executive vice president and chief operating officer of the University at the end of the upcoming academic year, was also honored for his support of the program, which teaches skilled trades to U.Va. employees through four years of classroom work and on-the-job training.
This year's graduates were a plumber, Brian Wheeler; an electrician, Michael Rosson; a heating, ventilation and air conditioning technician, Walter Wimberly; and two mason/plasterers, Juan Colindres and Charles Pierce.
Seven members of the first apprentice graduating class of 1986 presented Sandridge with a plaque from Facilities Management citing "his unwavering support of the U.Va. Apprenticeship Program since 1982."
"We want to present you with this plaque to honor your work and dedication," said Gordon Jones, a heating, ventilation and air conditioning master mechanic. "We know what a struggle it has been to keep this going."
Sandridge also received a certificate from Virginia Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Courtney Malveaux, who attended the ceremony, recognizing his "efforts in the development and promotion of Registered Apprenticeship programs with the University of Virginia."
In return, Sandridge praised the important work Facilities Management employees do in keeping the University and the Medical Center operating every day. He said the apprentice program allows the University to nurture skills within its workforce.
"Our graduates stay with us," he said, noting that 14 of the 19 graduates from 1986 were still working at the University. "Growing our own has proved to be a very important part of the model of this program, which has been replicated in other places."
And while the apprentices were excelling in many ways, Sandridge said they could not have done it without the support to their families and friends.
"They understand that you are a core part of the University," Sandridge said. "What goes on in the classroom, in the operating room, could not happen without you."
When the apprentice program started, the University had 382 buildings and a facilities workforce of about 640. Now, he said, there are 548 buildings, and Facilities Management has around 1,000 employees. The technology needed to keep those buildings operating has become more sophisticated, he said, and the apprentices are keeping up with the technical demands.
He also praised the 17 inductees, selected from a pool of more than 1,000 applicants. These apprentices will be preparing in the fields of carpentry, electrical, electronics, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, plastering and plumbing.
Chief facilities officer Donald Sundgren praised the employees as "critical support for the University's core business," and added that growing that workforce through the apprentice program was critical to success. He said that Facilities Management handles as much work as possible in-house, and that its employees are capable of working in a range of settings, from high-tech research and medical facilities to historical sites, such as the Academical Village.
Sundgren said this year the employees were tested by snowstorms and severe thunderstorms and acquitted themselves well.
Three other Facilities Management employees were honored for their educational achievements: Brigitte Broohm was cited for being a Voices of Adult Learners award winner; Christopher Blakey was cited for receiving an associate of applied science degree in heating, ventilation and air conditioning from Piedmont Virginia Community College; and June Jones was cited for receiving a bachelor of science degree in business administration from Averett University.
Colette Sheehy, vice president for management and budget, praised these students because of their perseverance in getting degrees while working full time.
"We are part of an educational institution and there is learning all around," she said. "There are all sorts of opportunities to fit your goals and objectives, to further your formal education, to be an apprentice, or to improve your English."
After the ceremony, Sundgren said the apprenticeship program has many beneficiaries. Apprentices develop valuable skills, the University gets talented workers, and more experienced workers have the opportunity to pass on the skills they have learned.
He also noted that through the apprenticeship program, the University encourages skills such as masonry and plastering, which it needs in maintaining its historic buildings.
Colindres, 37, a native of Honduras, followed in his fathers' footsteps as a mason. He was reluctant at first to join the apprentice program because of the four-year commitment while working and raising a family. But he said he was able to accomplish it "with the support of my family and the help from everyone at U.Va."
"My supervisors provided me the tools of success," Colindres said. "My mentors took the time to help me to grow."