The Shenandoah Valley Workforce Board (SVWDB) reached another milestone in its Valley2Virginia American Apprenticeship Initiative on March 26 when Chris Hall, the first graduate from the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center’s (WWRC) pre-apprenticeship Manufacturing Technician Training (MTT) program, was registered as an apprentice at The Hershey Company’s Stuarts Draft, VA plant.

Pre-apprenticeships prepare individuals to enter into employment and to succeed in a company’s registered apprenticeship program.  WWRC’s MTT program is a 16-week, 625-hour curriculum whose foundation is the Manufacturing Skills Institute’s Manufacturing Specialist (MS) and Manufacturing Technician 1 (MT1) program, plus OSHA 10 and forklift certifications. The WWRC training incorporates core skills required for manufacturing or warehouse occupations and contains the soft skills employers want such as communication, problem solving, flexibility, and teamwork.

Hershey registered Hall into a new apprenticeship occupation, a 3000-hour Industrial Manufacturing Technician apprenticeship governed by the Division of Registered Apprenticeship, Virginia Department of Labor and Industry. Companies who hire from pre-apprenticeship programs gain custom-trained talent to meet their workforce needs, and can potentially save thousands of training dollars as the instruction may be credited toward their registered apprenticeship requirements.

“Pre-apprenticeship opens another avenue for our job candidates to gain work-based training, credentials, and self-sustaining careers and gives employers like Hershey highly qualified employees.  It’s a win-win for all involved,” said Dr. Joe Ashley, Assistant Commissioner, Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS).”

“Hershey’s registration of Chris in this tight labor market represents a growing employer movement to grow-your-own talent and to incorporate people with disabilities into candidate pools,” said Debby Hopkins, Chief Workforce Officer and V2V Program Director. “We are delighted with the many employers and partnerships engaged in this project and look forward to more success stories.”

The WWRC manufacturing pre-apprenticeship program is supported through a number of state and regional partnerships including funding from the Career Pathways for Individuals with Disabilities Grant and the SVWDB’s V2V Apprenticeship Initiative, a $4 Million U.S. Department of Labor grant to expand registered apprenticeship in Virginia and develop apprenticeship pathways for underrepresented populations, including individuals with disabilities. 

Several in-depth accounts of the successes of these collaborative programs are available for the public to learn more. The VR Workforce Studio features regular success stories including this podcast with Chris’s story. VR Workforce Studio is produced and published by the WWRC Foundation in cooperation with the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center,  a Division of the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services. 

A recently released video also features the WWRC Manufacturing Technology Training (MTT) Pre-Apprenticeship Program.  The video was produced with input from Dr. Joe Ashley of The Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) Career Pathways for Individuals with Disabilities (CPID) program, Debby Hopkins of the SVWDB, and WWRC’s Director, Rick Sizemore.

For more information contact Debby Hopkins, 540.442.7134,


An Equal Opportunity Employer/Program. Auxiliary Aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities.  “This workforce program is funded 100% by a $4 Million American Apprenticeship Initiative grant awarded by the U. S. Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration.  This product was created by the recipient and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the U. S. Department of Labor. The Department of Labor makes no guarantees, warranties, or assurances of any kind, express or implied, with respect to such information, including any information on linked sites and including, but not limited to, accuracy of the information or its completeness, timeliness, usefulness, adequacy, continued availability, or ownership.  This product is copyrighted by the institution that created it.

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