From Virginia to Florida, Joseph Spillman has interned as a painter and industrial coatings inspector, treating the inside and outside of a submarine, a water tower and a historic lighthouse.
The Senior Painter has gotten his on-the-job training through networking and a school-to-career program offered by Williamson. He has brought a bold and adventurous spirit to these job opportunities, while Williamson has provided him with a strong knowledge base and solid foundation in best practices.
Joe always knew about Williamson. At age six, he was on campus at his cousin’s side as he moved into the dorm in 2006. After graduating, his cousin started his own business and Joe worked with him after school and on the weekends.
Seeing his older cousin’s success at Williamson motivated Joe to apply and attend the trades college.
Coming from a Coast Guard veteran’s household, Joe adjusted easily to the disciplined environment when he arrived. “There were some minor tweaks here and there,” but some of Williamson’s core values of Diligence and Integrity — “being a man of your word” — were familiar to him from his upbringing, he says.
As Joe settled into a routine of academic classes, shop and student life, he developed a stronger sense of purpose. The more he learned about the trade and the industry, the further he wanted to go in the field.
Joe took an early interest, compared to other students, in his “Construction Documents” course. He remembers the class as “very hard, a lot of information thrown at you.” He appreciates how the instructor broke down the information and emphasized the importance of contracts, RFIs (requests for information) and project specifications. Williamson’s hand-on students tend to put off learning about this necessary paperwork until after college when they are on the job, Instructor Joe Vaites says.
Coinciding with the course, Joe started his own business under the name Spillman Painting and Coating. One of the first contracts he drew up was for an interior painting job at the home of Williamson’s Head Football Coach Dan Drake. “He gave me an estimate, was very professional, did things the Williamson way.”
Joe set the bar high as a leader on campus. He joined Student Ambassadors, Student Government, and played on the football team.
“Joe was a leader as a freshman,” Coach Drake says. “The other players looked up to him, as they do with the better players on the team. But Joe had the work ethic to back him up.”
Joe made USCAA All-American his freshman and junior year. Covid-19 cancelled his senior year during which, Athletic Director Dale Plummer believes, he would have been a captain. ”He’s one of the best we’ve had in my eighth year as coach,” Drake says.
Meanwhile, Joe sought out jobs that helped his professional development. He landed an internship with Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS), a company that has been recruiting Williamson students from Paint and Machine Shop for internships and full-time employment since 2013. Every summer at NNS, the company hires about 200 office interns to work in finance, engineering, Informational technology (IT) services and trades. Joe was the only intern that summer who worked on an actual ship or submarine. He worked side by side with industry professionals as a coatings inspector on nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers.
For his next internship, Joe wanted experience in construction management. He was hired for the summer by BPGS Construction in Wilmington, DE, but when the pandemic hit that spring, the company suspended all internships. Joe contacted Margaret Kingham, Director of Placement and Internship Programs. She emailed him a job listing she received back in October from an industrial coatings company in Florida. Within 24 hours, Joe was on his way to Florida to work for Razorback, LLC.
Joe was the company’s first intern. Similar to his NNS experience, all his co-workers were full-time employees who mentored and advised him as he painted the inside walls of two water towers on an airforce base, and the entire outside of a historic lighthouse on Amelia Island in Fernanda Beach. “I learned so much down there!”
Returning to Williamson as a senior, Joe decided to focus on management rather than hands-on work, seeing more job security and longevity. He also hopes to further his education. Joe plans to pursue his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He has looked into two local universities that will honor his Williamson credits, and offer him a path to achieving his educational goals.
After graduating this Spring, Joe will be moving to Washington, D.C. to launch his career, working full-time as a Project Engineer for CBG Building. With professional confidence and pride, Joe expressed earlier this year his gratitude for the support he’s received: “Without their help, I would not have the successful education I have today, and Williamson couldn’t continue to produce top tier tradesmen.”
Your support makes it possible for students like Joe to attend Williamson College of the Trades with a full scholarship that covers tuition, room, and board. You can help to prepare the next generation of Williamson Men to be respected leaders and productive members of society by Making a Gift Today.