Fri Oct 23 2020 04:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

OCVTS Apprenticeship Programs

Hundreds of men and women from several counties in New Jersey choose not to go home at the end of their work day. Instead, they have made the commitment to head to evening classes held at several Ocean County Vocational Technical School facilities to participate in the OCVTS 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."

On a recent fall evening, the number of cars in the parking lot outside the Ocean County Vo-Tech Performing Arts Academy at Ocean County College, here, which currently houses some of the apprenticeship classes was certainly an indication of the dedication these students have to a program that will ultimately result in invaluable professional benefits.

Vicari recently visited with program participants at the Performing Arts Academy. The Performing Arts Academy which opened earlier this year has provided a venue for the apprentice program allowing students to attend classes in socially distant settings in order to meet state guidelines for in-school study during the coronavirus pandemic.

There are more than 560 students in the apprentice program this year – one of the largest in the northeast.

An apprenticeship combines paid on-the-job training with classroom instruction to prepare workers for highly skilled careers.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, workers benefit from apprenticeships by receiving a skills-based education that prepares them for good-paying jobs. Apprenticeship programs help employers recruit, build, and retain a highly-skilled workforce.

"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 offers apprentice programs in the areas of electricity, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, (HVAC) plumbing, machine trades, maintenance mechanic and heavy equipment operator.

OCVTS Superintendent of Schools Karen Homiek said the economy has played a key role in the popularity of the apprenticeships that are offered.

"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 Oct. 29, 2012," she said. "In addition, there are many people now retiring from the trades and those workers need to be replaced."

The apprenticeship program includes 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. Apprentice programs vary from one year to four years. The four year program includes HVAC, plumbing and electrical.

Students attending evening classes are already working in the trades they are studying.

Upon completing the apprenticeship program, students receive a completion certificate from the U.S. Department of Labor, which is honored by employers nationwide.

Homiek noted that in addition to Ocean County residents, students are coming from Middlesex, Mercer, Burlington, Atlantic and Monmouth counties to attend.

Homiek said due to the popularity of the program and the need to reduce the class sizes due to the coronavirus pandemic the vo-tech was starting to run out of rooms to teach.

"We have apprentice classes held in almost every one of our buildings," she 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."

Partnerships and cooperation from labor and industry have also added to the success of the 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.

She also complemented the teachers, some of whom are OCVTS graduates, for their dedication to the program and their support of the students.

"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 said he is proud of the program's past graduates that have successfully completed the program and gained their completion 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."