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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Youth Force
The sky's the limit for aviation apprentice

By Aunie Edwards
Special to The Toronto Sun

No one would argue the daily successes achieved within the four walls of a classroom. Using conventional tools of blackboard and textbook, dedicated teachers across the city have been educating and inspiring for generations. But even a proven formula can benefit from new insight.
Bradley Shaw, left, with supervisor Mark Galbraith at Canadian Flyers International, is enrolled in St. Robert Catholic High School's aviation technology orientation program.

Enter the York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB): by embracing creative thinking, bold initiatives and mutually beneficial partnerships, its schools are encouraged to think outside the box.

For example, the YCDSB supports the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) -- a partnership between school boards, community and province that gives students the opportunity to apprentice in a skilled trade while earning high school credits.

Members of OYAP are also guided through their post-secondary requirements and eventual certification. But the benefits of OYAP don't end there.

Based on a learning template similar to the OYAP plan, and with the support of the YCDSB and federal funding, St. Robert Catholic High School has developed a new curriculum for grade 11 and 12 students interested in a career in aviation, called the aviation technology orientation program.

"St. Robert collaborated with the Canadian Aviation Maintenance Council (CAMC) and community business to develop this course," says Michael Cino, aviation technology instructor at St. Robert C.H.S. "And this is the only program of its kind in Toronto -- students from across the region, including the public board, are welcome."

As a licensed pilot and automotive service technician, Cino is an educator who's uniquely qualified to teach the program.

"The course involves career exploration within the industry: introductory pilot training, maintenance, aviation related services, traffic control, meteorology. We use flight simulation, we visit colleges -- we're even building a full-sized airplane from the ground up," Cino says.

All of these exciting new components are incorporated within the framework of an established formula. Like other co-op and apprentice programs, St. Robert's course is based on work experience, in tandem with in-class theory and job skills training.

"I'm a member of the air cadets and that's how I heard about St. Robert's course," says aspiring pilot Bradley Shaw. "So I transferred from King City Secondary School."

Shaw attends morning classes and has been working at Canadian Flyers International at the Markham Airport since September.

"I assist with fuelling planes and organizing them on the ramp, I also do office work and assist the dispatcher," Shaw says.

"Brad is a bright kid with a great work ethic," says Mike Fankhauser, a commercial pilot who often supervises Shaw's work. "He's getting excellent exposure both in school and here on the job, and the plane building is just a bonus. They're getting below the skin, and that's a great opportunity most students don't get."

As Shaw plans his future, his class follows in step with post-secondary destination planning. And some of the pursuits that originate from the St. Robert's course will require apprenticeship hours. For example, an aviation maintenance engineer is a federally regulated trade that involves apprenticing and as such, OYAP is a valuable tool. But OYAP membership is not a requirement of the program.

"This course helps you explore the aviation industry; your decisions regarding OYAP will be based on what you discover about the direction you're taking," Cino says.

Though Shaw's aspirations will take him into the clouds, his pursuit of such dreams is firmly grounded in an attainable reality. The hours are long and the requirements for licensing are many, but Shaw's approach is refreshingly straightforward: "I'm working really hard and enjoying every minute."

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

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