At Graduation Ceremony, 11 Tradespeople Rise From the Ranks of Apprentices

February 2, 2023 By Matt Kelly, mkelly@virginia.edu Matt Kelly, mkelly@virginia.edu

Nearly a dozen more University of Virginia apprentices have joined the ranks of skilled tradespeople.

The Facilities Management division held a celebration Jan. 26 in the Newcomb Hall Ballroom to celebrate the 11 students who graduated from the University’s apprenticeship program.

Marcus Klaton, a 2019 graduate of the plumbing apprentice program who is now a utilities supervisor, served as master of ceremonies, and Colette Sheehy, senior vice president for operations and state government relations, gave the main address.

Klaton recounted some of the history of the apprentice program, which has created more than 200 skilled craftspeople over the years.

“We are so happy and grateful that we can gather this new year to celebrate your incredible achievement,” Klaton said to the graduates. “It is important to note that this is a particularly special graduation celebration: the program’s 40th anniversary.”

He praised Facilities Management for creating the program in 1982 and for supporting it since then.

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Seven of the apprentice graduates displaying their diplomas
Seven of the apprentice graduates display their diplomas following their recent graduation at Newcomb Hall Ballroom. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

“The program has seen many changes in program leadership and structure in its decades-long tenure,” Klaton said. “But it has had one constant – its unfailing commitment to provide education and training to the future tradespeople in service of our University and the surrounding community.”

Sheehy, in her remarks, noted this class of apprentices had to endure additional challenges.

“These 11 individuals developed and demonstrated proficiency in their trades, while at the same time rising to meet the challenges brought by the COVID pandemic,” Sheehy said. “You’ve spent your formative second and third years in the program learning on the job while supporting increased demands and an enhanced safety measures around COVID-19.”

Sheehy also noted that while the trades were still male-dominated, two women were graduating this year, both electricians.  

“We’re really proud of the women who have gone through our apprenticeship program,” she said, citing Brittany Collier and Jalisa Stinnie by name. “We’re making good strides.”

Sheehy also reminded the graduates to be thankful for the support they have received from their families and their mentors during their time in the program.

Marcus Klaton talking at a podium
Marcus Klaton, a 2019 graduate of the plumbing apprentice program, served as master of ceremonies at the apprentice graduation. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

Virginia Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Gary G. Pan addressed the graduates via a prerecorded video message and said UVA’s apprentice program is a role model for other state agencies.

“The model is proven to provide highly skilled workers to meet the demands of employers in a global economy,” Pan said. “Your commitment to your apprenticeship program and learning your trade is truly deserving of recognition. I encourage you to embrace lifelong learning and to share your new knowledge and skills with your colleagues.”

Each graduate, when called by name, walked to the front of the room, accepted a diploma from Sheehy and shook her hand. Plumber Tim Simonin waved a small plunger over his head as he walked up to receive his diploma. (Four graduates were not able to attend the ceremony.)

Zouzek Abdalhusain, graduating the program as a plumber, said his education opens new opportunities for him.

“This is something that has a future,” said Abdalhusain, who came to the United States 12 years ago from Iraq. “I never had this opportunity in Iraq, where plumbing is a trade that passes from father to son.”

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Collier, one of the three graduating electricians, said she enjoys seeing the inner workings of things.

“I like to see how things work and come together,” she said. “It feels good to be working with my hands.”

Collier studied carpentry for three years at William Monroe High School in Greene County and discovered her love of electricity while her class was building a house. Once she graduated from high school, she was accepted into the apprentice program. Collier is continuing her education with college courses, to help in her ambition to become involved with project management.

Klaton closed out the ceremony reminding the new tradespeople of their responsibilities.

“Remember your journey through this program,” he said. “Look for every opportunity to guide the less experienced. Take time to reflect on the difficult times. Experience and find ways to improve the experience of our future apprentices. We are responsible for the future of Facilities Management, so it’s our duty to support this program throughout our groups.”

Media Contact

Matt Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications