CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Youth Force
Building a life through apprenticing

By Aunie Edwards
Special to The Toronto Sun

In its broadest terms, the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) serves multiple worthwhile purposes. Allowing students to apprentice in a skilled trade while earning high school credits, OYAP provides a realistic view on the working world and an exploratory platform from which to discover a potential career.

OYAP also gives businesses the opportunity to train carefully screened and well-prepared students in a critical bid to maintain a strong skilled workforce.
Carpenter apprentice Steven Mamo puts the final touches on a home built by La Sicula Construction Management.

The York Catholic District School Board recognizes these benefits and encourages its schools to partner with OYAP and community business.

Enter Steven Mamo, a senior at Cardinal Carter Catholic High School, a carpenter apprentice and an OYAP success story who is already living his future.

"With OYAP, I'm collecting high school credits while I earn skills and hours toward my carpenter's certification, I'm actually applying my in-class learning to my life, and I'm preparing myself for college while I develop my resume," Mamo says.

The in-school component of his co-op has a lot to do with Mamo's mature approach.

"Our students must complete a pre-placement course before they enter the co-op program -- it covers health and safety, resume building, professionalism in the workplace and the interview process," says Julia Balaisis, co-op coordinator at Cardinal Carter CHS. "We work hard to prepare the student for the workplace, but also to match them to a compatible employer -- we want to give this excellent learning tool every chance to succeed."

For Mamo, the interview process was simply a formality, because he and his present supervisor had already facilitated an agreement between Cardinal Carter CH.S and Mattamy Homes. "With the guidance of a qualified teacher and the supervision of Mattamy Homes, a group of our students was selected to build a new home from the ground up," Balaisis says. "They had a golden opportunity to shadow the various tradespeople involved in home construction, and that's where Steven realized his interest in carpentry."

Giorgio Bonomo, owner of La Sicula Construction Management, was impressed with Mamo's work on the Mattamy project and took him on as a carpenter apprentice.

"This is a good kid," Bonomo says. "He's enthusiastic and interested -- he asks a lot of questions. He has a good work ethic and I'm glad to help."

Mamo participates extensively on the new home job sites.

"Of course, I do a lot of jobs like fetching and cleaning -- the new kid always does," Mamo laughs. "But I also do framing and joists and help in the big jobs -- I keep my eyes and ears open and I'm learning a ton."

It's that eagerness to absorb everything and jump wholeheartedly into his dreams that has propelled Mamo to the top of his game. "Steven is thriving," Balaisis says. "In fact, he brings such enthusiasm to his learning that he is often asked to speak, sometimes in front of a large crowd, about the success he has achieved through the OYAP initiative."

When asked to present a speech, Mamo simply tells his story. "Before the Mattamy project, I honestly didn't know what I wanted -- and it showed in my grades," he says. "After discovering carpentry and hooking up with OYAP, I learned exactly what my goals were and more importantly, I knew how I would achieve them. Now I really enjoy myself and the life I'm building."

Says Balaisis: "When a bright, industrious fellow like Steven Mamo finds a meaningful path to a prosperous future, it reaffirms why I'm in this business."

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

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