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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Youth Force
Apprentice 'has a goal and a dream'

By Linda White
Special to The Toronto Sun

Like thousands of high school students across the province, Kareem Ambrose is launching his career through an apprenticeship program that has given him direction, and the confidence to succeed.
"I now know this is what I want to do," says 20-year-old Kareem Ambrose, who's apprenticing as an auto technician at Crockford Auto in Scarborough.

A student at William Osler High School in Toronto, Ambrose had tried his hand at retail in a co-op placement last year, but knew it wasn't the right career for him. "I didn't know what I wanted to do," he says. "All I knew was that I didn't want to be hopping around from one job to another."

Ambrose had taken an auto body repair course at high school. When a teacher suggested he explore the trade further through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP), he welcomed the opportunity.

"I now know this is what I want to do," the 20-year-old says. "It's hard work, but I'm learning day by day."

Ambrose plans to attend college next fall and looks forward to becoming a licensed journeyperson in about five years. He has been working at Crockford Auto in Scarborough since September, and particularly enjoys welding and refinishing vintage vehicles.

"There's a lot of work to refinishing a car," he says. "Sometimes you have to take it completely apart, but when you're finished, it looks brand new."

OYAP is a school-work transition program sponsored by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. It allows students to begin training in a skilled trade while they're still in high school.

Students receive co-operative education credits through placement in an apprenticeship occupation while completing their diploma. The hours they work on the job are put towards journeyperson certification.

The ministry reformed the apprenticeship system and launched OYAP in 1998 in a bid to attract students to the trades at a younger age. Enrolment in OYAP has increased to more than 12,000 in 2002/03 from just 1,300 students in 1998.
Kareem Ambrose

As it works to meet the need for skilled tradespeople, the ministry wants to increase the number of students registered in OYAP to 23,000, spokesperson Dave Ross reports.

Helping a student find a trade they love and jumpstart their career through OYAP is rewarding, says Betty Faye LeRiche, assistant curriculum leader of guidance and career education at William Osler HS.

"OYAP gives students a chance to learn first hand about their futures," she says. "They get to work in their trade all day long. They can see if they really can do it and if they like to do it."

For Ambrose, it has given him the direction he was looking for. "OYAP has been a wonderful experience for Kareem," LeRiche says. "His ability to do auto body repair is great. He has discovered a talent ... He is learning and at the same time, is seeing his destiny."

LeRiche credits employers with providing rich learning environments that allow students to build their skills. "People who love their trade love to teach other people. Because the shop Kareem is working at is small, they're able to help him hand-in-hand. He's not just watching other people work -- he's doing it. When he needs help along the way, he gets it.

"Thanks to OYAP, Kareem now has a goal and a dream," LeRiche says. "The experience has made him wiser."

(Linda White ( is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont.)

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