By Aunie Edwards
Special to The Toronto Sun
Inspiration, strong support, hard work and single-minded dedication to a goal. It's an unbeatable combination, and it's Akeele Constable's personal formula for success.
Constable is a senior at Nelson A. Boylen Collegiate Institute and, not surprisingly, he can see his future with enviable clarity.
OYAP chef apprentice Akeele Constable, right, with supervisor Dominga Cerrudo
"Akeele came to me last year -- he wanted to be a certified chef and he requested consideration for the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP)," says Linda Herriott, co-op educator at Nelson A. Boylen.
OYAP offers high school students an opportunity to apprentice in a field of study that is sponsored by a community business. The program recognizes the skills learned and hours worked; they are applied to the apprenticeship and their related college courses are government subsidized.
It's a well structured head start, and it eases the transition between high school, college and work.
"OYAP is something I encourage for all of my students but Akeele needed no convincing," Herriott says. "It's a pleasure to work with someone who's so motivated."
Constable has been surrounded by the culinary world his whole life, and has been exposed to a variety of cooking styles.
"My mother is a chef," Constable says. "I guess you could say she's inspired me in this field."
Akeele's aunt taught him to cook, and he has spent a fair amount of time working in the restaurant industry.
Adds Herriott, "His mother's friend was recently presented with a culinary award. It would be hard not to be influenced."
After registering with OYAP and passing a series of required interviews, Constable is now enjoying an apprenticeship at Movenpick Marche, a popular restaurant in the heart of Toronto's financial district.
Constable works four days a week at Movenpick, but remains connected to his high school.
"I'm on call at all times," Herriott says. "I want these placements to work for the kids as well as the employers, so I make myself available to deal with any concerns that may arise."
Constable also returns to high school every Monday for a related course. "Akeele attends a weekly class where we concentrate on career building and transition skills: how to make choices about careers, about post secondary training and how to enter the work force," Herriott says. "We help the student match his or her skills not only with a career choice but with a course of action that will best suit the individual."
Evidently, Constable has achieved a stellar match in his work placement.
"I love it at Movenpick," Constable says. "They are extremely well organized here. They have different stations where I spend two or three weeks at a time. It's a good, concentrated approach and after I've mastered one area, they move me on to the next."
Rob Pawley, the manager at Movenpick Marche, agrees that Constable is gaining good experience
"Akeele is receiving a detailed and practical education here," Pawley says. "We also follow the criteria set forth by the ministry for chef apprentices. He'll enter the college level with a solid base of knowledge."
After completion of his placement, Constable will return to Nelson A. Boylen for another program that will ultimately link him to George Brown College.
"Since I'm registered with OYAP, the skills that I'm learning at Movenpick will be carried over toward my college apprenticeship, and my tuition at George Brown will be subsidized," Constable says.
It's been established that Constable has the inspiration of a strong role model in his life. He is also benefitting from the expertise of a thoughtful, community-minded business, and the remarkable support of a dedicated teacher and a generous government program.
But it is Constable himself who is ultimately responsible for his success, and those around him have no doubt in his ability to achieve it.
Rob Pawley says it best: "Akeele is a very positive person: he's outgoing, hard working and, most importantly, he's passionate about this industry and his part in it."
(Aunie Edwards (email@example.com)
is a Guelph-based freelance writer.)
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