U.Va. Honors Graduates of Apprenticeship Program

July 21, 2011 — Seven new skilled trades people joined Facilities Management at the University of Virginia Wednesday as they graduated from the apprenticeship program.

Facilities Management also honored 13 employees who have received degrees and  certificates or had other educational achievements.

In a ceremony at Alumni Hall, the apprentice graduates – electricians Priscilla Beamer, James O’Rourke and Jon Tolbert, plumbers Brian Curry and Khalil Jones, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning technicians Michael Dillard and Adam Proffitt – were congratulated by Colette Sheehy, vice president for management and budget, Donald Sundgren, chief facilities officer, and several other facilities managers.

Sundgren congratulated the workers for their accomplishments and said they were an example of how the University supports and cares about its employees.

"What do we do here?" he asked the apprentices and their families. "We provide education, research and health care. That's what we do. We don't do it directly ourselves but we enable it, we make it possible."

He told the employees they will need to continue to hone their skills to keep up with ever-changing technology in their fields.

"This is a great University with a great vision," he said. "What I ask of you is to leave it better than you found it."

Sheehy noted the University and state support for the apprenticeship program, now in its 29th year, but she also cited the support the apprentices have received from their families and friends, saying that the demands of the program have sometimes been hardest on those closest to the apprentices.

She also said the University needs to have a highly skilled workforce to support its mission. And given the option of hiring externally or growing its own, the University has decided to grow its own, through education and efforts such as the apprenticeship program.

"Many of the successful apprentices remain working here at the University," she said. "Many of them experience professional opportunities, where they can use their knowledge and skills in a collaborative work environment."

She said the University provides a challenging environment, ranging from new high-tech facilities to some of the oldest college buildings in the country.

"We are going to open nine more buildings by December, including two sophisticated science buildings," Sheehy said. "The University has more historic buildings than just about any other school. This requires special care as the University grows. Your importance grows as the University grows."

She said the University's apprenticeship program, which includes on-the-job training and classes at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center, has been used as a model around the country.

Several of this year's apprentices worked at the University before joining the program.

Beamer started at U.Va. in 2005 in housekeeping and joined the apprenticeship program in 2007. She has worked on the Old Jordan Hall fan coil replacement and appeared in a training DVD,  "Electrical Arc Flash Safety."
Curry joined U.Va. in 2006 as an environmental technician and entered the apprenticeship program in 2007. He has worked with sprinklers, examining drain lines, installing water lines and valves and soldering pipe.

Dillard joined Facilities Management in 2007 as a trades utility worker and shortly thereafter joined the apprenticeship program.

Jones joined U.Va. in 2007, accepted directly into the apprenticeship program after graduating from a New Jersey technical high school.

O'Rourke came to U.Va. as an assistant electrician in 2007 with work experience and several CATEC classes. He has worked on the renovation of the U.Va. Art Museum in the Thomas H. Bayly Building and helped string lights for the annual Lighting of the Lawn.

Proffitt has worked at U.Va. since 2004, shortly after graduating from Fluvanna County High School. He started taking HVAC classes at CATEC in 2006 and became an apprentice in 2008.

Tolbert worked in manufacturing for several years, and took electrical courses at Valley Vocational Technical Center. He joined the apprenticeship program in 2007.

Since its founding in 1982, 126 U.Va. employees have graduated from the apprenticeship program.

Following the graduation of this year's apprentice class, a short ceremony was held for seven new apprentices who signed their contracts and joined the four-year program.

Also honored were eight Facilities Management employees who received higher degrees.

• George Cullen, a contract administrator in the Facilities Planning and Construction Department, was honored for receiving a graduate certificate in procurement and contracts management.

• Kate Meyer, a project manager working in Facilities Planning and Construction, received a graduate certificate in project management from the University's School of Continuing and Professional Studies. 

• Shaun Farrell, a maintenance systems engineer in Facilities Management, received a master of science degree in management of information technology from the McIntire School.

• Chris Smeds, a technology officer and leader in the transition to a new Enterprise Maintenance Management System, received a master of science degree in management of information technology from the McIntire School.

• Forrest Johnson, a fire systems technician, received a bachelor's of applied studies in emergency services management from the University of Richmond.

• David Mumma, an electrician, received a bachelor's of business administration from Averett University.

• Ruta Vasiukevicius, senior facilities information analyst with the Facilities Management Resource Center, received a bachelor's of interdisciplinary studies from the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. 

• Christopher Ward, a landscape specialist, received a bachelor of science degree in turfgrass science from Penn State.

Also honored were winners of the Voices of Adult Learners Essay Contest, an event of the annual Virginia Festival of the Book. University employees enrolled in both General Educational Development and English as a Second Language classes participated.

Brigitte Broohm, a member of the Facilities Management building service team in Jordan Hall and an ESL student, was cited for her winning essay "Two Thieves and a Donkey."

Dedrick Johnson, a housekeeper for Facilities Management and a GED student, was cited for his award-winning essay "My Hero," about his uncle.

Abdalla Mohamed, a landscaping employee, a former ESL student and now a GED student, was cited for his essay "The Reason I Am Smiling."

Ronnie Townsend, a housekeeping employee and a GED graduate, was cited for his award-winning essay "Rock the Duck."

Townsend and Chris Rosson, also of housekeeping, were cited for receiving GED certificates.

Media Contact

Matt Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications