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Telecom secretary completes Apprenticeship Program
Telecom secretary completes Apprenticeship Program

Telecom secretary Sitrena Williams knows a good opportunity when she sees one. And she knows that hard work and commitment pay off in the end. Putting those things together recently found Williams happy and proud of her achievement: completing a two-year Clerical Apprenticeship and graduating with honors.

When she heard about a new apprenticeship program for NNPS clerical support staff a couple years ago, her interest was piqued. The courses sounded appealing, it would improve her job skills and earn her state certification, and there was a financial incentive to completing the program, too.

Telecom secretary Sitrena Williams
Telecom secretary Sitrena Williams displays her Certificate of Completion of Apprenticeship.
Carl Daniels, Jr. photo

"I love any opportunity to learn new skills and grow professionally," Williams said. "This was a great opportunity to do that and it would not cost me anything but my time and commitment."

According to the Clerical Apprenticeship Program guidelines, the purpose of the program is "to ensure the professional development of all clerical employees by providing relevant educational and on-the-job training." NNPS offers apprenticeship programs in four industry areas: Child Nutrition Services, Clerical, Custodial Services, and Transportation.

The Apprenticeship Program is a partnership among Newport News Public Schools, Thomas Nelson Community College, and the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry. Those who complete the requirements of the program and pass an exam receive industry certification from the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The idea is to create a highly qualified work force that will bring efficiency and expertise to the school division.

NNPS-TV Station Manager Jim Anklam said, "The apprenticeship program is an excellent opportunity for participants to gain a variety of insights and skills, allowing them to develop into excellent and invaluable professionals."

He noted the high expectations of the program and that Williams has the right attitude and professionalism to make the most of each opportunity.

For Williams in the Clerical Apprenticeship, the program consisted of two years of courses, including traditional college subjects like math, English, and Spanish, and job-related courses in Microsoft Office programs, customer service, first aid/CPR, and time management/organizational skills. The second year included similar courses as well as leadership skills and preparation for the CAP exam.

A 3.5% salary increase at the end of each year of the program makes for a nice reward, and acknowledges the value of newly-developed skills.

About the program

Newport News Public Schools' Apprenticeship Program is a structured training program designed to develop highly skilled employees. The program, a partnership among Newport News Public Schools, Thomas Nelson Community College and the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, combines quality, hands-on career training with theoretical and practical classroom instruction.

Apprenticeship Program School Board Presentation

Clerical Apprenticeship Program

Program Guidelines

Still, a two-year commitment for a full-time worker and mom is not easy.

"We held classes every Tuesday and Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Long, busy days at work; family obligations; and other situations ... made it hard to find the time and energy to attend classes and complete assignments," Williams said.

"I am not a night person, so I did not like going to class during the cold winter nights," she mentioned. "It was also hard to miss my daughter's school and sporting events."

Thankfully, Williams' family was supportive of her and she loved spending time with her peers. It turned out to be a great opportunity to make connections and meet people who could offer help or advice.

"The best thing about the program was meeting and interacting with other clerical professionals within the district.  You are often so busy at your work location and there are not many opportunities to meet others doing what you do," she said.

"Each week there was a new topic, a new presenter and always great interactions with a fun group of peers," she continued.

Williams is part of the first class to graduate from the program. Graduates received their Certificates of Completion of Apprenticeship during the September 19 school board meeting, and were honored at a reception afterward.

At NNPS-TV, Williams is often "the first impression people have of our station," Anklam pointed out. "The wonderful thing about Sitrena is that she cares about others and the quality of her work, so the first impression remains as a lasting imprint of excellence," he said.

Anklam said Williams has excelled in leadership and applying her skills on the job. "Her desire to leave her comfort zone and try new things is apparent with her committing to the apprenticeship program," he said. "And she continues to combine this attribute with new insights and abilities in management and leadership.  For example, she accepted the role of Safety Coordinator for our building.  She is also continually taking on new projects and learning new skills in communication and project workflow."

Now that she has completed her apprenticeship, Williams encourages others to do the same. "I highly recommend this program to every clerical professional within our district. There are not too many companies that will invest in their clerical staff like this. NNPS gave us the opportunity to grow professionally and increase our salary at no cost to us," she said.

Completing the program gave her a sense of self-satisfaction, too. "I am so glad to have completed this program and met so many wonderful people," she said. "It feels great to stick with something, even when there are challenges, and finish the commitment I made."

She added, "I am also very happy to have my Tuesdays and Thursdays back to enjoy with my family!"