CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Youth Force
Community drives the success of OYAP

By Aunie Edwards
Special to The Toronto Sun

Jay Vanderpas is a senior at Newmarket High School who aspires to become a truck and coach technician. The structured agenda that guides him is the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP). Initiated by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, OYAP is giving Vanderpas the opportunity to simultaneously finish high school, train in his chosen skilled trade, establish relevant employment connections and plan his future in a logical sequence.
"At Bell Canada, I'm learning a lot of what I really want to learn," says Jay Vanderpas, who is training in transportation technology through OYAP.

Having a teacher like Julia Jones hasn't hurt. She arranges the work placement, teaches the pre-placement requirements, oversees job skills training and stays in continued contact with her students. "We provide a practical enhancement of everything the student is learning away from the school," says Jones, community based education co-ordinator at Newmarket High School. "The kids love the fact that they can actually apply what they're learning to what they're doing."

For Vanderpas, Jones recommended a placement at Bell Canada's fleet service and it's exactly what he needed.

"Newmarket High School doesn't have a transportation technology program -- at Bell Canada, I'm learning a lot of what I really want to learn," Vanderpas says. "I'm doing oil changes, brakes, tire balancing -- my work is always checked and people don't mind stopping to help me out -- it's great here."

Bell Canada's fleet service in Newmarket has earned a reputation as an excellent partner in the OYAP initiative. And Jones knows why.

"For over 10 years, this placement has been run by Joe Smith, the fleet service manager. He's strongly committed to the OYAP mandate and he offers much more than a co-op placement -- he's a mentor to these kids," Jones says.

"I really believe that OYAP is a tremendous opportunity and that Bell Canada is an excellent vehicle for it," Smith says. "We have the resources to keep up-to-date with the technological advances in today's cars -- we have the equipment to keep up with the servicing of these advances, and we can teach these skills to our apprentices."

But Smith's reputation as a mentor does not evolve from his skills training program. "Joe encourages the kids to excel -- he's dedicated to helping them, not only to learn the skill but to learn a valuable work ethic," Jones says.

For Smith, a prime objective is to teach his apprentices they can be proud of a job well done.

"The skilled trades are as necessary a career as they are honourable," Smith says. "It's important to impart this concept along with the skill."

The concept is not lost on Vanderpas and his own personal work ethic proves it. While completing high school and working at Bell, Vanderpas also works part time in the evenings and takes a night school course in transportation technology.

"I thought the course would benefit my apprenticeship -- the more I know, the more they'll let me do at my placement and the more I'll learn," Vanderpas says.

His efforts have not gone unnoticed. "Jay is a motivated kid -- he's always on time, he's got a lot of initiative and he's a great addition to this trade. I know that he'll carry on, and OYAP will guide him through college," Smith says.

No one can predict the future with certainty. But a conversation with the players in this story makes it clear that success seems inevitable for Jay Vanderpas.

(Aunie Edwards ( is a Guelph-based freelance writer.)

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