The Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) is an opportunity for students to apprentice in a skilled trade and simultaneously earn high school credits.
In partnership with secondary schools and community businesses, OYAP provides a road map for youth -- a well-planned itinerary beginning with a high school apprenticeship, and culminating in a college education and certification in a skilled trade of choice.
"I am glad to be at Duplex Electrical and I'm doing my best," says apprentice Americo Magana.
OYAP means that students can graduate high school with a resume, a well established professional connection, a government-subsidized college education and a completely attainable goal.
But for Americo Magana, a recent graduate of St. Joan of Arc Catholic High School, OYAP means a little bit more. Magana has been providing care and support for his mother and four younger siblings since his father passed away 12 years ago.
"We came from El Salvadore almost two years ago to build a better life for my mother, my three brothers, my sister and myself," Magana says. "With OYAP, I will build that life."
Together with the York Catholic District School Board and Duplex Electrical, OYAP is providing Magana with the tools he needs to become a certified commercial and industrial electrician.
"Americo gained four credits and completed high school with his work placement at Duplex Electrical," says Ed Markson, co-op educator at St. Joan of Arc C.H.S. "It wasn't easy because he was also supporting his family with two jobs. But his hard work has paid off -- Americo was hired full time and he now has a good company backing him while he progresses toward his career goals."
As for the good company that supports him, Duplex Electrical is more than happy to help.
"We're quite familiar with the OYAP program and Americo is doing very well here," says Houri Torossian of Duplex Electrical. "If he continues his fine work, he can take his apprenticeship right to the end."
With a professional electrician supervising his apprenticeship, Magana is making quick progress.
"I am working for a good company under an excellent supervisor," Magana says. "I'm glad to be at Duplex Electrical and I'm doing my best."
Magana's apprenticeship requires 9,000 hours of related work and three blocks of steadily advancing courses at Humber College. It will take between four and five years to complete.
Says Magana: "I broke the record in co-op hours and I have been gaining more hours all summer, so I already have about 1,000 hours -- OYAP is such a great opportunity to succeed."
With the dedicated teachers of the York Catholic District School Board, the community spirit of Duplex Electrical and the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program stand solidly behind him, Magana may yet find the better life that he seeks and that he so richly deserves.
(Aunie Edwards (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is a Guelph-based freelance writer.)
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