TOMS RIVER – Hundreds of individuals have made a commitment to participate in the Ocean County Vocational Technical School Apprenticeship Programs.
“It’s hard work, dedication, commitment and drive on the part of each of these students that makes the apprentice programs so successful,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, liaison to the county’s vocational technical schools. “Moreover, with this program students do not have to wait for opportunity, rather they create it.”
Recently, Vicari visited with program participants at the Performing Arts Academy. The Performing Arts Academy opened earlier this year at Ocean County College and has allowed participants of the program to attend class in a socially distant matter.
This year, more than 560 students are in the apprentice program making it one of the largest programs in the northeast. The apprenticeship is a blend of classroom instruction with a paid on-the-job experience to prepare workers for highly skilled careers.
“Because of your perseverance and enthusiasm, you can land in-demand jobs,” Vicari told the students on his recent visit. “You will be well prepared for the challenges ahead.
“Your chances to learn are almost unlimited and you never stop learning in a program such as this,” he said. “The knowledge you gain now and after you graduate is invaluable.”
OCVTS apprentice programs include electricity, plumbing, machine trades, maintenance mechanic, heavy equipment operator and heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
“In Ocean and Monmouth counties, there has been a great deal of building and home improvements, in part, driven by the devastation that followed Superstorm Sandy on October 29, 2012,” OCVTS Superintendent of Schools Karen Homiek said. “In addition, there are many people now retiring from the trades and those workers need to be replaced.”
The apprenticeship program consists of 2,000 hours per year of on-the-job training for each year of the apprenticeship and 144 hours per year in the related instruction program. The programs vary from one to four years. Once the apprenticeship program is completed, students will receive a completion certificate from the U.S. Department of Labor, which is honored by employers nationwide.
With the program becoming popular throughout multiple counties and the need to reduce the class sizes due to the coronavirus pandemic, the OCVTS was starting to run out of rooms to teach.
“We have apprentice classes held in almost every one of our buildings,” Homiek said.
OCVTS Principal of Adult Education Mary Beatty Sharisky said class hours are mandated by the U.S. Department of Labor.
“Everything we do has to be checked and approved by the Department of Labor,” she said. “If a student is short as little as 15 minutes, they have to make the time up. There has to be accountability and we have set the bar very high for this program.”
“We have made strong connections that have resulted in our students finding and keeping good jobs in the trades like machine trades, HVAC, plumbing, electricity and other opportunities,” Homiek said.
“A successful program doesn’t just happen,” Vicari said. “There are a lot of moving parts that need to be coordinated and fine-tuned. Our instructors want nothing more than to have their students succeed.”
Vicari also said how proud he is of the program’s past graduates who have successfully completed the program and received their certificates.
“Many have moved on to operate their own successful business while others continue with the employer that provided the on-the-job training,” Vicari said. “These men and women have made the most of this program and it shows.”