For a Brampton student who didn't know which way to turn as he approached graduation, a willingness to explore a trade he knew little about pointed him in the right direction.
"It has turned my life around. It totally changed things for me," says Adam Elias, 17. A student at Mayfield Secondary School, he decided to try his hand at tool and die making after his teacher encouraged him to consider the trade.
An increasing number of students are choosing a career in the trades, including tool and die apprentice Adam Elias.
Elias completed a co-op placement last spring at Precision Tool & Die in Brampton, which works primarily in automotive stamping. "Once I got into the placement and learned what it was all about, I discovered that I really enjoy it," he says.
"The guys I worked with really took their time to explain things. They'd drop whatever they were doing to help," Elias says. "By the end of my placement, I could use all the machines. They'd tell me what to do and I'd go and do it."
During his placement, Elias registered with the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP). The 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. They also have a chance to earn a salary and receive financial assistance towards the purchase of necessary tools and clothing.
OYAP has given Elias a head start on his career. "Most of the guys I worked with started in the trade when they were 24 or 25 and finished by the time they were 29. By the time I'm 24, I'll be licensed."
Elias returned to high school this fall to complete his diploma, and hopes to attend college in January.
"I'm looking forward to finishing my apprenticeship and finding a good job I can settle into," he says.
Helping a student find a career they enjoy is rewarding, says his employer. "I know what I had to go through when I was younger, and this is a nice way for students to find out if this is a trade they'll like," says Mike Lukovic, owner of Precision Tool & Die.
"Adam was eager to learn...He doesn't rush into things. He's careful. That's the way I like apprentices to be at the beginning," Lukovic says. "They have a good future. There's always a demand for good tool and die makers."
An increasing number of students are choosing a career in the trades, reports Anna Diakun, a co-op teacher at Mayfield. "Adam didn't know about tool and die making, but once he began his placement, he hasn't looked back. He quickly discovered he liked that kind of work ... He now has some career direction."
Exploring a trade is rewarding, even if a student discovers it's not something they want to pursue.
"Students become more mature working in an adult environment," Diakun says. "They really do rise to the occasion. All of a sudden, they're relied upon. If they're late or miss a day, they are letting somebody down.
"It increases their confidence and self-esteem. Many students are surprised they feel comfortable in an adult atmosphere," Diakun says. "Their supervisor often becomes a mentor to them."
(Linda White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont.)
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