SMART Case Study

For the past couple years, Joel Rubin and the team at Jpixx Video in Virginia Beach have been telling some great stories about young people who have found their callings in the shipyard trades.

They have produced what they call “SMART Choice” videos for the Southeast Maritime and Transportation Center, based at Tidewater Community College in Virginia Beach, which promotes apprentice programs and other educational pathways into those jobs.

Joel found two great subjects at Auxiliary Systems, a sizable marine repair operation off Church Street in Norfolk. The company, which is wiling to give any hard worker a chance, did just that with David Tong, who emigrated to the US from Vietnam in 1995. Tong was a cook at the restaurant on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel island for 14 years when he heard about an apprentice opportunity at Auxiliary Systems. He completed the program, earning multiple certifications and soon an associates degree and is today one of the company’s best electricians.

Billy Erwin took an even more complicated route to success. After two years in prison for drug distribution, Auxiliary gave him a shot in their shop. Being in the apprentice program meant working during the day and attending TCC at night. But Billy had other mouths to feed so he continued a cook’s job at a local IHOP overnight, arriving at Auxiliary many mornings with little or no rest. But Billy persevered and became a superstar. He is now longer flipping pancakes but rather a foreman and looking forward to finishing his degree and someday running the company.