From culinary school to new home construction programs, Ocean County Freeholders praised the efforts of the Ocean County Vocational Technical Schools in providing beneficial training and skills to both traditional and non-traditional students.
In recent weeks, freeholders saw firsthand the work done by students in vo-tech programs including the New Home Construction Program, the Ocean County Center for Culinary Arts and the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science also known as the MATES program, just to name a few.
“I had the opportunity to meet a family who now has a new home as a result of the efforts of the students in the New Home Construction Program partnering with Northern Ocean County Habitat for Humanity,” said Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who serves as liaison to the Vo-Tech schools. “This has provided the family with such a sense of pride and that experience also spills over to the work of our students.”
The New Home Construction Program got underway shortly after Superstorm Sandy struck the area in October 2012 leaving in its wake thousands of damaged and destroyed homes. Following the storm, Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity reached out to OCVTS for assistance.
“Much of Habitat’s volunteer workforce had shifted its focus to repairs and restoration of damaged homes for so many families in need following the storm,” Vicari said. “Habitat was finding it difficult to fulfill their mission of building new homes.”
Concurrently, Ocean County was seeing a shortage of skilled construction workers for the enormous task of rebuilding.
“In response OCVTS developed the New Home Construction Program for adults,” Vicari said.
A partnership with Habitat for Humanity allows students to learn all aspects of home construction as they build a house from the foundation up on-site for a selected Habitat family. The newest home was built in Berkeley Township.
“Habitat benefits from having a full-time construction crew working under the supervision of an experienced instructor and OCVTS students gain real world experience building a house to industry standards in real time,” Vicari said. “This program is a winning experience for everyone involved.”
Vicari noted that while the 10 adult students in the OCVTS program paid $6,000 each for the hands on course it provided them real-life experience in home construction. Eight of the 10 already have construction jobs with firms such as: Wagner Builders, Madden Builders, Lacey Kitchens, Bruce Jetty Construction and Frankoski Builders.
“The students who are receiving this training are encouraged about their future,” said Freeholder Gerry P. Little, who attended a recent graduation ceremony at Cuisine on the Green in Little Egg Harbor Township. “They are receiving skills that will help them gain employment in areas they enjoy in addition to them staying in their home county.”
Cuisine on the Green at Atlantis opened its doors in October 2013 and houses the vo-tech’s Ocean County Center for Culinary Arts which relocated there from a building at Navy Lakehurst on the Joint Base – McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, after it outgrew the facility.
“The Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation presented the opportunity for OCVTS to assume the management of the restaurant facilities at the county’s owned Atlantis Golf Course in Little Egg Harbor,” said Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr., who serves as liaison to the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation. “Moving to Atlantis allowed for expansion of the program as well as unlimited opportunities for students.”
Bartlett, who recently attended the MATES graduation, said the MATES program is another OCVTS program that provides opportunity to students attending it.
“MATES provides a rigorous academic curriculum with
concentration in the areas of math, science, and technology,” Bartlett said. “It is highly competitive to get into. These students are the best and the brightest in these areas.”
Vicari said for programs like home construction, culinary arts and the Twilight Automotive Technology Program, the Ocean County vo-tech school system recognized a trend in the increased enrollment of adult students interested in retraining and re-entering the workforce.
“OCVTS focused on the development of innovative approaches to address the unique needs of adult learners,” Vicari said. “Accelerated training programs and flexibility in class hours provide more opportunities for students and OCVTS is a leader in providing these opportunities.”