This new apprenticeship program may fill utilities vacancies in Norfolk, officials say

An apprentice conducting mechanical maintenance at the Moores Bridges Water Treatment Plant. (Southside Daily Photo/courtesy of the city of Norfolk)
An apprentice conducting mechanical maintenance at the Moores Bridges Water Treatment Plant. (Southside Daily Photo/courtesy of the city of Norfolk)

NORFOLK — The city’s Department of Utilities partnered with Human Resources and the city’s Civil Service Commission to develop a six-month paid apprenticeship program to train full-time equipment operators and utility maintenance mechanics back in June of 2018.

The program included classroom training, hands-on demonstrations and on-the-job work experience with repair and maintenance crews.

Open recruiting began in June 2018 and it included outreach to residents in the St. Paul’s area, which is currently undergoing a 10-year revitalization project, according to a news release from the city.

More than 150 applications were received and 46 applicants were selected as eligible candidates, according to the city.

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 Aug. 20, 2018, the apprentices began their employment.

Over the next six months they were integrated into maintenance crews and worked alongside a mentor to help them learn all aspects of their jobs.

“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.”

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, city officials said.

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