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Youth Force
OYAP: Making the grade

By Linda White
Special to The Toronto Sun


The Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) is successfully encouraging high school students to explore a career in the trades, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities reports.

"This is one of the great success stories I'll celebrate forever," Minister Dianne Cunningham says of OYAP. "It has grown every year, and we expect it to continue to grow."
Dianne Cunningham, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, lauds OYAP's success.


The ministry launched OYAP in 1998 with just 1,300 students. In 2002/03, more than 12,000 students participated in the program, the ministry says in "Opening Doors," its first apprenticeship report released this spring.

As a school-work transition program, OYAP allows students to begin training in a skilled trade while they're still in high school. They receive co-operative education credits through placement in an apprenticeship occupation while completing their diploma. The hours they work on the job are put towards journeyperson certification.

School boards willing to promote the trades are key to OYAP's success. "We also need excellence in training," says Cunningham. "We need business, industry and trades themselves to be prepared to mentor and help these students."

Each of the province's 71 school boards is on board. And with 12,000 students working at placements in more than 80 skilled trades, employers are demonstrating their support.

Since 2000, the ministry has invested $120 million to revitalize the province's apprenticeship system, which currently includes 58,000 apprentices.

The ministry's goal is to help double the number of new entrants into apprenticeship programs.

"We started with OYAP because we wanted young people to enter the trades," Cunningham says. "Many don't go to college or university, but many go on to do more than Grade 12...Still, just 5% say they are going to enter a trade."

Though many skilled workers have qualities equal to university and college graduates, many are turned off by the perception that you have to get dirty to work in a trade.
Top 10 OYAP trades in 2001/02
  • Automotive service technician
  • Early childhood educator
  • Hairstylist
  • Cook
  • Education assistant
  • General carpenter
  • Assistant cook
  • General machinist
  • Child and youth worker
  • Autobody repair

    -- Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities


  • "So much of this work is technical, but many don't think about working in a clean workplace," Cunningham says.

    "Many young people are not taking advantage of good jobs available in the skilled trades. It's part of our heritage," Cunningham says. "Today, many European countries are keeping their skilled workers as they are developing...We have to get our young people into these trades."

    If the province is to remain competitive in the global economy, it must increase its skilled workforce, says Cunningham. "With OYAP, we can be competitive as a province by encouraging our young people to get into the skilled trades in high school...Germany starts training apprentices at ages 15 and 16."

    In addition to OYAP, the ministry has launched programs aimed at those who've completed high school, including:
  • The Journeyperson Updating Program, which creates opportunities for experienced skilled workers to update their technical skills. This allows them to become more effective on-the-job trainers for colleagues and apprentices.
  • The Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program, which offers technical training and a work placement to help those seeking a career in a skilled trade prepare for employment as apprentices.
  • The Apprenticeship Enhancement Fund, which helps colleges update equipment and facilities in order to deliver relevant, high-quality training. To find out more about the apprenticeship report, visit www.edu.gov.on.ca.

    (Linda White is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont. and can be reached at linda.white@rogers.com.)



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