CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Youth Force
Apprenticing sets youth on a prosperous path

By Aunie Edwards
Special to The Toronto Sun

The Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) is a vehicle of connectivity -- by linking education with business, high school with college and student with goal, doors are opened, worlds of opportunity are exposed and the generation that is building our future is connected to a realistic path.
Tool and die apprentice Jason Ewing, right, operating a 5-axis computer numeric control machine at Palcam Technologies Ltd., with co-apprentices Mark Dutton, centre, checking calibration and Andrew Dutton observing.

Sponsored by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, OYAP's partnership between government, education and community business allows students to apprentice in a skilled trade and accumulate hours and skills toward certification while simultaneously earning high school credits.

Like any collaboration, OYAP requires a strong commitment from each of its parts to be truly successful. Enter a dedicated high school teacher, an innovative community business and an industrious young man -- in this case, Jason Ewing, tool & die apprentice -- and all the parts are strongly committed.

Ewing is a graduate of Sacred Heart Catholic High School, whose journey began when he studied computer numerical control (CNC) at Seneca College Center for Advance Technology.

"The York Catholic District School Board believes in a useful link between its high schools and the colleges of our community -- as such, we have a strong partnership with Seneca," says Ron Dorcas, co-op co-ordinator for Sacred Heart C.H.S. "Our students can take the CNC program at Seneca every afternoon for a term and earn two high school credits."

The CNC program is an effective prelude to tool & die making.

"With computer guided machines, CNC operators can help make forms for any type of part that needs to be manufactured. The tools and molds used for mass manufacture is what tool & die covers, and that basically includes everything -- it's an amazing field," Dorcas explains.

With an aptitude and an interest, the guidance of Dorcas and the OYAP road map, Ewing earned a co-op work placement at Palcam Technologies Ltd., where he now functions as a CNC machinist.

"I'm lucky to be at Palcam -- I'm getting top-of-the-line training on state of the art technology. I love it here," Ewing says.

Indeed, Palcam Technologies is a uniquely qualified apprenticing opportunity.

"We use groundbreaking technology at Palcam -- Jason's learning on the most current systems available," says Greg Hart, business development manager at Palcam Technologies.

The OYAP connection led Ewing from co-op student to graduate to full-time apprentice at Palcam.

"There are several benefits on both sides of OYAP," Hart says. "Students can apply their learning to our industry and make informed decisions about their goals.

"Jason decided to pursue this early on -- he's been a CNC machinist with us for the last eight or nine months. He's been setting up and running the machines and now he's learning how to program them."

There is no question Palcam invests a great deal of time and expertise in their apprenticeship program, but it's an investment that is rooted in a comfortable philosophy of community spirit mixed with savvy business planning.

"It's great to give back to the community and to contribute to our industry as a whole," Hart explains. "But we also gain an excellent screening tool from the high schools -- we require quality, motivated potential employees for our growing business and that's a real benefit the OYAP system gives us."

Palcam presently supports several co-op students and apprentices.

And Ewing is notable among them. In fact, his obvious success landed him a speaking engagement at a recent seminar called Workforce Solutions, Spotlight on Youth.

"OYAP has opened doors that I hadn't previously considered," Ewing says.

"I wanted to inform people that there are several viable paths out there -- that if you work hard, there are great ways to achieve your goals and university is only one of those ways."

Clearly, Ewing possesses personal qualities that would contribute to his success in any capacity.

The fact that this exceptional young man chose OYAP to connect him to his goals speaks volumes to the value and effectiveness of the initiative.

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

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