Tina Brea has always had a passion for construction and home improvement.
“My Dad is very handy, and I grew up as his helper, doing things like holding up sheetrock as he hammered around me,” Tina said. “Later on, when he became a real estate investor, I helped out as the point of contact between him and the builders and construction managers he hired.
“I really wanted to manage the projects myself, but I lacked the confidence,” she said. “I had learned a lot over the years, but there were still big knowledge gaps that I needed to fill.”
Today, the 2016 graduate of the Ocean County Vocational Schools’ (OCVTS) Adult New Home Construction program has her own construction management firm and recently completed her first new home build.
The launch of the OCVTS program in 2014 was an innovative partnership response to Superstorm Sandy, involving the vocational-technical school, Ocean County, Habitat for Humanity, many local businesses and the Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation, said OCVTS superintendent William Hoey.
“The eastern part of the county was devastated, and there was a great shortage of trained building trades professionals to help get us up and running again,” he said. “At the same time, many adults in Ocean County needed training to launch successful careers, and Habitat for Humanity was still building homes for families. The idea was to collaborate on something that helped address all of these needs.”
Students in the 10-month, full-time adult program take their technical classes at OCVTS; their real-world project is building a Habitat for Humanity home for a family.
The program appealed to Tina, now 41, as she was getting ready to head back into the workforce.
After graduating from Point Pleasant High School, she worked as a customer service representative at Verizon, and then was a stay-at-home mom with her children, now 11 and nine.
But sitting at a desk all day was no longer an attractive option.
“And then I heard about this OCVTS program. It was perfect. It would help me in my work with my Dad, really learn to do what I really love to do, and get me ready to start my own business,” she said. “I’m a visual learner, and I thought, ‘What better way to learn than to build an actual house?’”
Tina said the course helped her understand “how to read blueprints and implement them phase-by-phase. It’s been vital to my success. The course also showed me how to work side-by-side with all the other construction trades professionals involved in building a house.
“If you are serious and passionate about getting into the construction field, I highly recommend this program,” she said. “It will give you the confidence you need to jump-start your career, whether you are looking for a good-paying job or to start your own business.”