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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Youth Force
OYAP student on the cutting edge

By Linda White
Special to The Toronto Sun

Just three months into an apprenticeship as a hairdresser, Bethany Carlson has learned the benefits of finding out about a client's lifestyle before she even picks up her scissors.
"I was really nervous when I first started, but I'm feeling more comfortable trying new cutting techniques to achieve new looks," says OYAP hairdresser apprentice Bethany Carlson.

"People appreciate it if you talk to them and find out a bit about their lifestyle," says Carlson, an OAC student at Huron Heights Secondary School in Newmarket. "If they're out the door at 6 a.m. every morning, they don't want a hairstyle they have to fuss with. You can find a style that fits their lifestyle."

Carlson began studying hairdressing at high school in Grade 9, and had enough experience under her belt to cut, perm and colour hair when she began her apprenticeship at Magicuts at Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket this past August.

The 18-year-old has been earning credits toward her high school diploma through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) and will graduate in January. She will have accumulated 1,500 work hours by that time, and will need to complete another 500 before she's eligible to write her licensing exam.

OYAP also offers students a chance to earn a salary and receive financial assistance towards the purchase of necessary tools and clothing. It's a program more and more students are requesting, reports Sheila Nayler, department head of community-based education at Huron Heights, which has strong arts and technical programs.

"It's a real bonus for many students, especially those who really don't like being in school," Nayler says. "At the same time, it's a start in a career for them."

OYAP gives direction to many students and outlines the courses they need to complete.

"For students who have a goal, OYAP ensures they have a learning plan that will get them where they want to go," Nayler says.

It's a worthwhile experience, even if students decide a career just isn't for them.

"At the very least, they have some work experience to put on their resume," Nayler says. "Once they get turned on to this, many can pick up extra hours in the summer and on weekends."

OYAP is well received by many employers.

"Students who are enrolled in an apprenticeship work hard and want to do a good job," says Sofia Butera, area supervisor for Magicuts.

Before taking on an apprentice, Magicuts invites students to spend a day in one of its shops.

"We want to see how they like it, because it goes both ways," Butera says. "Students and the employer have to be happy."

It's rewarding to see a student progress, Butera says. "Their confidence grows as they go on."

Carlson feels more confident each day. "I was really nervous when I first started, but I'm feeling more comfortable trying new cutting techniques to achieve new looks," she says.

Still open to attending university one day, Carlson is pleased to have an employable skill that offers countless opportunities.

"You can get pretty far in this business, from making educational movies to management positions and owning your own salon," she says. "I'd like to get into competitions and make my work known."

(Linda White ( is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont.)

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