Cardoza Senior High School in Northwest Washington served as the backdrop for graduation ceremonies in honor of the first class of registered apprenticeship graduates of the D.C. Apprenticeship Academy.

More importantly, the 12 apprentice electricians, who ranged in ages from 22 to 30, were recognized for having completed the Academy’s four-year program which required some 144 hours of classroom instruction, coupled each year with 2,000 hours of on-the-job training.

According to program coordinator Beth Moore, who works for the Construction Trades Foundation in Northern Virginia, the program was launched four years ago.

Most of its students have already worked for registered sponsors for apprenticeship programs in the District, she added.

“To be in the apprenticeship program takes a tremendous amount of dedication,” said Moore, whose organization, along with the District of Columbia Public Schools system, partners curriculum consultants with the Academy.

“For the last four years they’ve been working full-time and probably have a family life on top of going to school in the evenings,” she continued. “What we typically see is that apprentices who can make it through the first year can make it because that first year is the hardest.”

Several of the participants enrolled in the program immediately following high school. Others had already been working in construction jobs.

Besides having kept up with a daily schedules that ran from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., they were required to fulfill a stringent class load. Components of their studies included electrical theory, blueprint reading, mathematics, electrical code requirements and safety and first aid practices.

Completion of their coursework has made the new graduates eligible for the journeyman examination, which is aimed at helping them acquire more professional licensing.

But the apprentices’ graduation is also meaningful to the city in that the June 2 event marked the first time in almost 30 years that there has been such a graduating class. It was during the 1970s that District-based vocational and technical schools and training programs either closed or relocated outside the city.

City Council Chairman Vincent Gray said in a statement that thanks to programs at the Academy and similar courses being taught at Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering Academy in the city’s Northeast, vocational/ technical curriculums are back in the District to stay.

“The Construction Trades Foundation is working to dispel the myths about technical education,” Gray said, adding that he was citing as an example the Academy’s graduating seniors who have already been hired for industry jobs or accepted for enrollment in college programs.