When Stephen Tew graduates from high school this spring, he'll have test-driven a career he loves, and will be well on his way to completing an apprenticeship as a truck and coach technician.
"Many students are beginning to understand that choosing to go to work after high school is a worthwhile option," says Tew, 17, of Scarborough.
"It's nice to be going to school and learning what you want to learn," says OYAP student Stephen Tew, who's training to become a truck and coach technician.
"However, students must become informed about the available options based on their interests, and must use their high school time taking the proper courses that will provide the skills required to be successful," says the Jean Vanier Catholic Secondary School student.
He will make the transition from school to work thanks to the CITI: (Cooperative Education Industry Technical Studies Initiative) Motive Power program. Part of the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP), it provides specialized training for students interested in becoming automotive service or truck and coach technicians.
The program was launched five years ago as a pilot project between the Toronto District School Board and Centennial College. The Toronto Catholic District School Board signed on after its second year. The program is sponsored by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and is supported by a group of employers.
The two-year transition-to-work program allows students to earn credits toward their high school diploma, while the hours they work on a job are applied to journeyperson certification in their chosen trade. Students attend classes at both their home school and Centennial College beginning in Grade 11, when they also complete a co-op placement.
"It's nice to be going to school and learning what you want to learn," Tew says of college courses. He expects to complete his apprenticeship when he's 21 -- seven years ahead of the average licensed technician.
Tew completed his co-op placement at Ryder Transportation Services, where he continues to work part-time.
"I do small jobs like washing and cleaning trucks, and with supervision, can do bigger jobs like overhauling clutches and brake jobs," he says.
CITI: Motive Power students explore careers within the auto and truck repair industry through visits to the General Motors truck assembly plant in Oshawa, automotive dealerships, and a host of repair facilities.
"They get a mix of theory and practical, with a focus on automotive service," says Carlos Sousa, OYAP co-ordinator for Toronto's Catholic board.
"They will have hundreds of hours of on-the-job experience," Sousa says. "One of the biggest benefits for students is the absolutely seamless transition between school, workplace and education...Students are much more marketable."
Dan Cushing, a maintenance manager with Ryder and Tew's employer, is an active member of the program's steering committee and helped establish training criteria.
"By the end of Grade 12, these students will have completed the common core training required for the first step of their apprenticeship," Cushing says. "That's a real plus to some employers."
Cushing accepted one of four Minister's Apprenticeship Awards on behalf of Ryder for his commitment to apprenticeship training. He oversees 21 Ryder facilities in central Ontario, and recognizes the value of well-trained technicians.
"Each year, about 37 out of the 40 students selected for this program graduate," Cushing says. "That's quite a success story."
(Linda White is a freelance writer based in
Brooklin, Ont. and can be reached at
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