Navy veteran Anthony Mina was working at Verizon in sales and customer support in Newport News when he realized he wanted more upward mobility out of his civilian career. 

He knew friends and family who worked at the local shipyard and saw there were opportunities for growth and hands-on work in the shipbuilding industry. When he began looking for programs nearby, he found Tidewater Community College’s Skilled Trades Academy was the perfect place to learn his new craft, welding. 

“Tidewater’s facility was clean and up-to-date, and my instructor was amazing. It really got me interested and engaged before I even stepped onto the shipyard,” says Mina, who earned his American Welding Society Certification in December 2021, and now works for HII at the company’s Newport News Shipbuilding yard. 

“I don’t only have to do welding while I’m there. I’m putting the pieces in place, talking to the crane crew, making sure supplies arrive on time, and cutting pieces to size with a propane torch,” he details. “I’m getting to do something where I can see the physical process and progress. Building something is super exciting; I get to see this massive ship that’s going to be around for years to come and say, ‘I remember working on that!’”

Mina reflects on his time in the Navy, walking on all the various parts of a ship, and is proud he can contribute his talents to the branch in new ways. 

“Now I know why ships and parts are shaped that way, how they benefit the overall structure of the ship. I know there was a guy like me putting the wall and floor where it’s supposed to be and making sure it’s right so that I could walk on it, and now I’m doing that for other sailors,” expressed Mina. 

Virginia Ready’s supported programs were the answer in steering Mina toward his next job. 

“You don’t have to quit your job to learn a new skill. I got to learn and got paid to learn. Whether or not I stay at the Newport News shipyard, I have my AWS certification. I already have a leg up at whatever yard I go to,” explains Mina. “I can even weld at home creatively if I want to, get a rig, and make art, because now I know how to stick weld. I can even put my muffler back together if I need to; I don’t need to go to a shop for that.” 

For folks looking to make a career change, and veterans deciding on what’s next, Mina encourages them to do the same. 

“Go for it. Taking that step and going from a face-to-face job to a hands-on job is awesome,” said Mina. 

Learn more about Virginia Ready’s supported programs in skilled trades, healthcare, and IT and technology and how you can become a Virginia Ready Scholar.