In Grade 10, Nicole Bugala stood out in her auto body class as the only female student. Two years later, she stands out for her dedication and achievements, earning a scholarship from her school.
"I feel at home in the auto shop," Bugala says. A Grade 12 student at York Humber High School in Toronto, she received the Montreal Memorial Scholarship for Women in Technology.
"Working gives me even more chances to learn," says Nicole Bugala, an auto service technician apprentice at A & A Auto Repair in Downsview, Ont.
After taking a Grade 11 transportation technology class, she knew she wanted to become an auto service technician.
"I really loved it," Bugala says. "I'd stay after school until 10 p.m. and would go back on weekends."
She credits her auto teacher, Rob Nadeau, with encouraging her to follow her dreams and offering extracurricular activities that motivated her to continue learning. Trips included a visit to Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ont., where students got a first-hand look at the world of motor sports.
The class entered a derby car in Monster Jam at SkyDome, where Bugala worked as a member of the pit crew alongside two classmates. Last summer, she was a member of the pit crew for a class-sponsored pedal car at the Molson Indy.
This year, the 19-year-old is learning on the job and dreams of one day owning her own shop. She has been working at A & A Auto Repair in Downsview, Ont., since registering with the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) in September.
"I liked auto body, but decided to become a mechanic because I'm more interested in how the engine works," Bugala says. "Working gives me even more chances to learn. In a classroom, 10 kids can be working on the same car. Here, there's one mechanic for every car and I'm working with that mechanic."
OYAP is a school-work transition program sponsored by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. It allows students to train in a skilled trade while 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 toward journeyperson certification.
As the ministry works to meet the need for skilled tradespeople, it wants to increase the number of students registered in OYAP to 23,000 from 12,000.
The message is getting out to students, says Patricia Pincente, York Humber co-op teacher.
"More students are showing interest in an apprenticeship. They're starting to think more long-term than ever before," Pincente says.
"They're thinking about careers and jobs. With OYAP, they're not just getting high school credits and co-op experience. They're tying themselves into a potential employer. They can also continue their apprenticeship wherever they choose to go."
Business owners like Angelo Villani of A & A Auto Repair applaud the program.
"Our trade is short on good mechanics, so it's good to be able to help people who are interested in the trade," Vilanni says.
He gives Bugala full marks for her eagerness to learn.
"She assists other mechanics, is getting to know the tools and our computers, has done oil changes and greasing, general cleanup, taking wheels off," Villani says. "She's seeing how other mechanics are working and is getting her hands dirty.
(Linda White (firstname.lastname@example.org
) is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont.)
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