By Linda White
Special to The Toronto Sun
After attending an event that profiled opportunities in the trades, Shawn Martyn decided to follow his love of cars and try his hand at automechanics through an apprenticeship.
"Once I started working at my placement, I knew I wanted to be a mechanic," says the Georges Vanier Secondary School student. "I've always liked taking things apart and putting them back together. Things have just kind of clicked."
Right: Shawn Martin, 18, gets instruction in automechanics from supervisor Peter Boglis.
Though Martyn had never even changed the oil in a car before beginning his apprenticeship a few months ago, his enthusiasm and dedication has earned him the trust of his employer and he is enjoying increased responsibilities.
"He's a very enthusiastic worker," says Joe Chiapponi, owner of Master Mechanic Professional Auto Service at Warden Avenue and Denison Street. "He started from zero and is doing quite well."
Not only has Martyn discovered a trade he loves since signing on with the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP), he is also earning credits towards his high school diploma. The hours he works on the job are applied to journeyperson certification, which means he's well on his way to reaching his goal of becoming a licensed mechanic.
OYAP students also have a chance to earn a salary and receive financial assistance towards the purchase of tools and clothing required for their trade.
Martyn, 18, has learned how to change tires and change oil, and will work at the front counter, where he will deal with customers and book appointments.
Chiapponi welcomes the opportunity to introduce students like Martyn to the trade.
"We don't have enough young guys getting into this trade," Chiapponi says. "I'd like to see more guys giving it a try, and whatever I can do to help is great...For somebody like Shawn who is learning and retaining, he's just thriving on it."
Co-op and apprenticeship programs go a long way to helping hands-on learners who really don't know what they want to do after finishing high school, says Rochelle Kuchar, head of the co-op program at Georges Vanier in North York.
"There's no question that that sort of exposure can give students the motivation to apply themselves and choose their path in life," Kuchar says.
"Take a look at Shawn, for example. He walks 45 minutes to get to his placement. That says a lot about him. He's taking this very seriously."
Students are often first exposed to a career through a co-op class.
"Kids have no idea what to expect in the workforce. A co-op class is like a lab for the real world," Kuchar says. "They can't be late and they have to dress appropriately."
Apprenticeships takes that exposure one step further, and are welcomed by many employers who recognize a shortage in the trades.
"It's a win-win situation," Kuchar says. "Employers get a potential employee and students kick start their career."
The rewards are countless. "This is such a positive program," she says. "As a teacher, you feel like you're making a difference. It's a partnership between school, an employer and a student. Everyone contributes to make it a success."
(Linda White (email@example.com)
is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont.)
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