After taking a course in house wiring, high school student Mike Kuchma enjoyed taking on odd jobs around the house, wiring plugs and switches. As he discovered a passion for a job well done, he also discovered his future career.
"I really liked the work and took an advanced course in Grade 12. I knew I wanted to become an electrician," says Kuchma, a recent graduate from RS McLaughlin Collegiate and Vocational Institute in Oshawa.
| Mike Kuchma
He pursued his interest by registering with the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) in January. OYAP gives students a chance to earn credits toward their high school diploma, while the hours they work on a job are applied to journeyperson certification in a skilled trade.
At the same time, they have a chance to earn a salary and receive financial assistance towards the purchase of tools and clothing required for their trade.
Kuchma completed a work placement at Townsend Electric in Oshawa in June.
"I don't have any doubts that this is what I want to do," Kuchma says. "Working is a big change from school. I'm a hands-on learner and enjoyed being able to start from nothing and stand back to see the finished results."
He worked on residential and commercial jobs, completing about 500 hours towards journeyperson certification. He must complete 9,000 before he can write his licensing exam.
"The more I learned, the more responsibilities I got," Kuchma says. "I started from the bottom, nailing boxes and doing tie-ins. From there, I moved into finishing work."
He wasn't able to continue his apprenticeship with Townsend Electric following graduation because of an industry ratio on the number of journeymen to apprentices. But he looks forward to finding a new job and takes with him valuable experience.
"Mike showed a lot of initiative and was willing to learn," says Jack Sanders, owner of Townsend Electric. "He was always eager and always early. Most of the time, he was the first one here every morning. That shows me he really wants to do this."
More and more students recognize the benefits of jump-starting their careers through OYAP, reports Rupa Mehra, a co-op teacher at RS McLaughlin who arranges OYAP placements.
"It's a very competitive program," Mehra says. "Students have to go through an interview process before they're accepted. We can't always guarantee a placement, so if they can arrange that on their own, it's a bonus."
Developing a strong work ethic is among the benefits of OYAP.
"Getting the work experience, the knowledge, the skills and the work ethnic needed to succeed in the trades is important," Mehra says.
"Our OYAP students will have learned a lot of valuable lessons, even if they don't get to continue their apprenticeship with their employer."
Students now entering the trades can look forward to a promising career.
"With Baby Boomers retiring, there will be no shortage of jobs available," Mehra says. "Students who get into the trades will be able to write their own ticket."
(Linda White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont.)
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