The Institute for Advanced Learning & Research was recently awarded $497,890, the largest award for Education funds this year, from the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission for ExTRA: Expanding Talent through Registered Apprenticeship. The grant will support employers in the 15 Go Virginia Region 3 localities and focus on expanding apprenticeships in construction, healthcare, early childhood education, manufacturing, and information technology. 

This funding supports:

  • a dedicated Apprenticeship Coordinator
  • incentives to employers to cover the direct costs of Related Technical Instruction (RTI) (up to $2,700 per year per apprentice)
    • assistance for 36 new apprentices each year for three years, for a total of 108 apprentices
    • an estimated 61 apprentices will receive their Journeyworker credential during the grant period. 
  • the development of a regional Apprenticeship Consortium with a website and marketing materials to support recruitment

In 2018 IALR completed an Apprenticeship Analysis for GO Virginia Region 3 – over 100 companies responded and 87 employers expressed interest in considering offering apprenticeships in the near future (within three years). These employers indicated that their highest needs were for information and technical assistance, and funding for related technical instruction, both of which are addressed by ExTRA.

Meet Our

Apprenticeship Coordinator

Natori Neal

[javascript protected email address]
Office: 434.766.6657
Natori Neal
Meet The Team

IALR worked with partners, the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry and Virginia Technical Institute, to help Southside Mechanical Services (SMS) of Danville, Va. achieve registration as a state apprenticeship sponsor.

John Daniel (Daniel Builders, LLC), Ulises Jimenez, and David Sage (Virginia Technical Institute) participate in a signing ceremony.

Employer Spotlight

Southside Mechanical Services – Plumbing

  • Location: Office in Danville, VA but serve the states of Virginia and North Carolina
  • Why did your company make the decision to establish a registered apprenticeship program? We recognized the need in our industry and area for such a program, not only to increase the workforce but to give young people an opportunity to begin a career with proper training and experience.
  • Information about current or future apprenticeship opportunities: Our apprentices are enrolled at Virginia Technical Institute in a 4 Level program. Each of these levels are equal to a semester of instruction which is split between classroom lecture and practical lab. At the end of each semester, we evaluate our other employees to see who else may qualify to join the others in the apprenticeship program.
  • Has anything surprised you about being an apprenticeship sponsor? One thing that has surprised me about being an apprenticeship sponsor is the amount of support we’ve received. This journey to establish our apprenticeship program has not been one we’ve traveled alone. We’ve had a lot of help from the folks at The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, our DOLI representative, as well as the people with Virginia Technical Institute.

Apprentice Spotlight

Corey Woods

  • Occupation: Plumber
  • Related technical instruction provider: Virginia Technical Institute
  • Number of years/ months as an apprentice: 8 months
  • What do you like about being an apprentice? I enjoy the fact that I am doing different tasks everyday and learning multiple tasks everyday.
  • What attracted you to your position/apprenticeship? I was eager to learn of new opportunities in a trade.
  • Has anything surprised you about being an apprentice? The realization of what all goes into project from beginning to end.

Employer Spotlight


The apprentice programs have been part of the structure of OI, formerly Brockway, since coming to the Danville area in 1978. These programs are an integral part of the glass manufacturing business. Employees learn their trade as it applies specifically to the process. The Ringgold plant is turning 44 years old in December. There have been many retirements of long term 40 year employees over the last 5 years. This has and continues to open up many opportunities for apprentices. The best way to get into a program is to start in production. Maintenance and Forming Apprentice programs are posted internally for current employees. Mold Shop Apprentice program hires from internal employees and outside applicants depending upon education and prior related experience. 

– Stephanie McGuire, HR Manager

Apprentice Spotlight:

Justin Carter

Employer: Owens-Illinois (O-I)
Occupation: Mold Maker

Why did you Choose to become an apprentice? I really want to be able to get my journeyman’s card. I think becoming an apprentice helped me take my career to the Next Level.

What do you Like about being an apprentice? I like that I’m able to learn about how a bottle is made and what it takes to fix the equipment needed to obtain a high-quality bottle. I have very good trainers that are showing me everything I need to know in order for me to be a good asset to the mold shop.

What are your day to day experiences as an apprentice? On a daily basis at the moment I am repairing blanks and working on my speed in order to keep the machines running. I’m also learning how to repair molds.

What advice would you give future apprentices? Come ready to go to work and be willing to learn everything you can in order to be the best you can be.

Apprentice Spotlight:

zachary harris

Employer: Owens-Illinois (O-I)
Occupation: Mold Maker

Why did you Choose to become an apprentice? To learn more about the field I studied in college and to expand my knowledge in mold repair and glass making.

What do you Like about being an apprentice? Learning different ways to repair and work on various equipment.

What are your day to day experiences as an apprentice? Repairing various equipment to spec. to get the most life out of each set of equipment.

What advice would you give future apprentices? Always ask questions. The more questions you ask, the more knowledge you will gain.

Apprentice Spotlight:

eric adkins

Employer: Owens-Illinois (O-I)
Occupation: Mold Maker

Why did you Choose to become an apprentice? To learn the field.

What do you Like about being an apprentice? Working with and working on different equipment.

What are your day to day experiences as an apprentice? Welding, grinding, sanding, defective parts (equipment).

What advice would you give future apprentices? Never give up on your goals.

Youth Apprentice Spotlight

The following individuals are high school students that are participating in local youth registered apprenticeship programs. These youth apprentices obtain related technical instruction from Southern Virginia Higher Education Center’s Career Tech Academy.

Name: Kate Bishop
Employer: ProductWorks
Occupation: Mechanical Engineering apprentice

“My favorite thing about being an apprentice here is the opportunities are endless and every day I come and get to learn something new and hands-on.”

Name: Alexander Shaw
Employer: Hitachi Energy
Occupation: Welder apprentice

“The best opportunity you will have is doing an apprenticeship. It gives you real world experience. You get to do hands-on most of the time and if you have a job you’re looking toward you’ll already be ready for it and you’ll have experience.”

To learn more about registered apprenticeship, eligibility for ExTRA RTI funding, and any other questions around apprenticeship Contact Us