Gilles Suprenant understands the value of a well-considered agenda. He co-ordinates various school-to-work programs for the conseil scolaire district catholique de L'Est Ontarien, the largest French speaking school board in the province. Located in L'Orignal, Ontario, Suprenant oversees curriculums in seven high schools for about 15,000 students. He knows what's good for his district and the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) ranks among the best.
OYAP gives senior high school students the opportunity to apprentice in specific skilled trades. The program offers practical exposure, a substantial head start toward certification and a relevant networking resource. Developed by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, OYAP also subsidizes studies at the college level.
One of the program's success stories is named Eric Latullipe. "Eric is a perfect example of what this program is set up to achieve," Suprenant says. "Eric was registered with OYAP in his senior year at high school -- he became a qualified automotive service technician within 32 months."
The average apprenticeship for this trade is four and a half to five years. "Eric gained his certification about 2 years ahead of the standard schedule. His tuition at La Cite collegiale (his community college) was government funded and he even achieved the interprovincial seal -- his license is recognized in every province," Suprenant says.
Clearly, this level of success depends on many different factors, but OYAP is the vehicle that brings them all together. For example, the high school receives a very specific curriculum that must be covered before the student can
"These kids get a real head start while they are still in high school," Suprenant says. "Every trade requires a basic course and half of that course is taught at the secondary level. The affiliated college recognizes the high school contribution, and covers the second half from that point."
Suprenant knows that for OYAP to work well, the supervising teacher must play a significant role. And an educator who is well versed in trade requirements will better prepare the student apprentice. The work placement, in turn, has a better chance of succeeding.
"Eric benefited because his high school teacher, Jean-Yves Chartrand, at Ecole Secondaire de Casselman, is a licensed automotive service technician," Suprenant says. "And by supervising the work placements, he is in touch with the technicians and the technology. As a result, Jean-Yves knows exactly what his kids should learn before they go out on their job placements."
Knowing what to teach your students before they enter a workplace has distinct advantages for more than just the apprentice.
"The businesses are extremely pleased with these OYAP participants," Suprenant says. "Eric, for instance, went to Laplante Chev Olds in Casselman Ontario for his high school placement. They hired him and he still works there today as a fully licensed automotive technician."
Eric Latullipe is a real testament to the ability of OYAP to get kids started in their chosen field. But further testament comes from the Laplante dealership's repeated use of the ministry program.
"It is hard to find qualified technicians," Suprenant says. "Every school year, this dealership recruits from within the ranks of OYAP -- in fact, the management at Laplante Chev Olds believes the only way to find employees in the trades is to work with a high school that runs a good OYAP initiative."
Suprenant spends his workday finding ways to ease the transition for high school graduates. His awareness of the issues makes his opinion a valid one. But Suprenant doesn't expect anyone to rely on his personal endorsement: "The ministry record exists -- OYAP's success is a well documented fact."
(Aunie Edwards (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is a Guelph-based freelance writer.)
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