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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Youth Force
OYAP launches student into high gear

By Aunie Edwards
Special to The Toronto Sun

If you think that teenagers are too busy playing video games to plan for their future, then you haven't heard of the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP), you haven't seen a dedicated educator at work, you didn't know that community businesses really do have community spirit and you definitely haven't met Vince Mannella.
Vince Mannella, left, an automotive technician apprentice working at Woodbine Chrysler, receives guidance from automotive service technician Pat Milantoni.

Mannella is a senior at St. Robert Catholic High School. As a registered member of OYAP, he's pursuing his goal to become a certified automotive service technician while simultaneously completing his high school English requirements.

The road map to achieve these mandates is carefully planned by OYAP, Mannella's high school teacher and the business that hires him for the co-op component of the program. In this case, the business is Woodbine Chrysler, a well-respected car dealership that has been helping OYAP students realize their goals for several years.

Mannella completed a three-week course before his placement began.

"Among other transferable skills, Vince learned how to interview for the job and what to expect at the workplace," says Connie Ciarallo, Mannella's high school co-ordinator at St. Robert C.H.S. "We need to minimize the risk for the student and for the business."

Mannella began at Woodbine Chrysler in February and will continue the placement until mid-June.

"Vince gives 110%. He's motivated and he really wants to pursue this trade," says Kevin Lappin, service manager at Woodbine Chrysler.

For Mannella, it's been a tremendous opportunity. "I really enjoy working here. Everyone's been great -- they're even pretty patient about all my questions."

As Mannella learns a skill, Lappin notes the accomplishment in a government-mandated task book.

"The ministry has certain requirements and so does Woodbine Chrysler," Lappin says. "I have to be concerned about quality training but also about safety."

In a carefully monitored environment, Mannella is learning tire repair and installation, cooling systems and fuel injection.

"We're giving Vince the opportunity to perform basic service tasks, but he shows a lot of initiative, so we're also supervising a little more advanced work," Lappin says. "I would love to do more if I could," says Mannella. "But I understand how careful the dealership has to be. After all, this isn't tech class -- these guys have customers who are used to the best work done in the fastest time."

Mannella also completes related assignments and attends classes on alternate Tuesdays.

"We keep in close contact with our OYAP students," Ciarallo says.

"They're gaining invaluable exposure to the working world and we can teach them -- in real time -- how to succeed within that environment. And it's a testament to the success of this placement that Vince has been offered a summer job at Woodbine Chrysler."

Mannella plans to continue his co-op education at Centennial College. He will do so with an established professional connection, a solid head start in skills training and a government subsidized tuition.

"OYAP and community business can open doors, and as educators, we can help remove risk, but the success of each program depends on the hard work and initiative of the student," Ciarallo says. "Vince Mannella is a good news story, and he himself is ultimately responsible for that."

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

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