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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Youth Force
Hands-on work motivates apprentice

By Linda White
Special to The Toronto Sun

Letting apprentices get their hands dirty is key to helping them determine if they're suited to a particular trade. At the same time, it gives employers valuable insight into potential employees, a leading employer believes.

"Our apprentices are definitely getting their hands dirty," says Rosanna Armata of 427 Auto Collision. "They're able to work alongside a licensed bodyman. It's not just a matter of watching. We want them to get a true feel for it."

Tristan Aziz
That hands-on experience has made all the difference for Tristan Aziz, a recent graduate of Toronto's Silverthorn Collegiate Institute who is apprenticing at the shops as an auto body repairer.

"People there treat me equally," the 18-year-old says. "I'm getting a lot of experience. I've been doing teardowns, which involves taking off bumpers, fenders and trim. I have started doing some reassembling and have spent time in the paint shop, mixing paint and sanding down bumpers."

"He's very dedicated," Armata says. "When you watch him, you can see that he enjoys what he's doing. He is asking to be in positions where he is learning more."

Aziz plans to go to college in September and hopes to complete his apprenticeship with 427 Auto Collision, a company that earned an Employer of the Year Award for Etobicoke from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities for its commitment to education.

Not only did Aziz discover a trade he loves since signing on with the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program, he also earned credits towards his high school diploma, while the hours he works on the job are applied to journeyperson certification.

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. The program also gives students a chance to find out more about their options.

Tristan Aziz, right, an OYAP apprentice at 427 Auto Collision, is picking up the skills to become an auto body repairer, under the guidance of supervisor Frank Pitaro.
"We can't give them the insight that anyone at their workplace can give them," says Sherrie Yoshida, associate head of co-operative education at Silverthorn.

"They learn about the requirements, how other people (completed their apprenticeships) and the different routes they can take to reach the same goal," Yoshida says. "It's a lot more beneficial for students than going through (college) calendars, videos or the Internet."

Students can also benefit from the networking opportunities a placement creates.

"A lot of times, supervisors become mentors for students and they keep in touch after the placement is finished," Yoshida says.

The experience is beneficial, even for students who discover they're not cut out for a particular trade. "They realize they need to do some research and figure out what they want to do" before committing time and money to learning a trade they're not suited to, Yoshida says.

Still, it's particularly rewarding when a student discovers something they love. "When they get turned on by what they're learning, you know this is it," Yoshida says. "You can see it in their face, in their eyes, in their (sic) voice." For many, the experience motivates them to complete their high school diploma. "They know they can't get their apprenticeship without their diploma," Yoshida says.

(Linda White is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont. and can be reached at

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