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Posted on: March 12, 2019

Norfolk Utilities Department Creates Jobs for St. Paul’s Area Residents

The Norfolk Department of Utilities developed a six-month paid apprenticeship program to train full-time equipment operators and utility maintenance mechanics.

Norfolk Utilities Department Creates Jobs for St. Paul’s Area Residents 

NORFOLK, VA – The Norfolk Department of Utilities developed a six-month paid apprenticeship program to train full-time equipment operators and utility maintenance mechanics. The program included classroom training, hands-on demonstrations, and on-the-job work experience with repair and maintenance crews.  

“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.”  

After partnering with the Department of Human Resources and the City’s Civil Service Commission, the program began to take shape with the application criteria and a full curriculum of classes, demonstrations and certifications. Classroom sessions and demonstrations were held on Mondays and Fridays, and apprentices spent the remaining time gaining on-the-job work experience with repair and maintenance crews.  

Open recruiting began in June and included outreach to residents in the St Paul’s Area, which is currently undergoing a 10-year revitalization project. More than 150 applications were received and 46 applicants were selected as eligible candidates. 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 August 20th, 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.  

“The program equipped the apprenctices with new skills and abilities for employment and played an important role in the first steps of the St. Paul’s area project,” said Lentz.

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. 

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In June 2018, Harry Kenyon from the Department of Utilities met with residents of the St. Paul’s neighborhoods to inform them of the program and gather interest for the 15 apprenticeship positions. This was a partnership between the Department of Utilities, NRHA and the People First program for St. Paul’s. 

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An apprentice conducting mechanical maintenance at the Moores Bridges Water Treatment Plant.
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