CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Youth Force
Apprentice on the road to a future

By Aunie Edwards
Special to The Toronto Sun

The Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) is a collective effort. Sponsored by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, OYAP is implemented by educators such as the York District Catholic School Board with the co-operation of community businesses. The alliance enables students to apprentice in a skilled trade while earning high school credits.

Government, education and business are essential for the success of the program, but without the commitment of a responsible student, OYAP is merely a smart idea.
"I'm positive that I've found my career -- this is my path to it," says automotive service technician apprentice Michael Modica, right, with John Collura, his supervisor at Roy Foss Motors Limited. (Photo, Connie Ciarallo)

Enter Michael Modica, a senior at St. Robert Catholic High School, automotive service technician apprentice at Roy Foss Motors Ltd. in Toronto, and one of the many area teens who make OYAP a real success story.

"This program requires serious students who have found a business willing to apprentice them," says Connie Ciarallo, co-op co-ordinator at St. Robert CHS. "Last year, Michael completed a co-op placement with Roy Foss Motors, a full-service dealership. They liked him and signed him under the OYAP initiative this year -- it's been a very natural progression."

Modica will graduate from high school in June with apprentice hours, experience and skills, a substantial resume in a relevant field, personal connections in the automotive industry and a detailed road map for college.

"When he achieves a certain level in his apprenticeship, Michael will be contacted by an OYAP consultant with a list of colleges that offer automotive service technician courses," Ciarallo says. "Roy Foss Motors will accommodate Michael's college sessions -- every effort is made to help him succeed."

The high school also plays a critical role in the OYAP initiative.

"Every student is required to complete a pre-placement course. We invite speakers from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System -- it's vital that health and safety issues are addressed. The employer must also provide safety training specific to their industry," Ciarallo says. "In addition, we prepare the students for the work environment -- team work, co-operation, time management -- this focus is continued throughout the placement. It's meant to ensure a smoother transition to the world of work."

For Modica, the transition has been successful and rewarding. "Michael is a good young guy who is willing to learn," says Everett Smith, shop supervisor at Roy Foss Motors. "He's got a lot of initiative and we hope his future is with us."

Modica presently works in the transmission department under the supervision of a licensed service technician.

"I really like being at Roy Foss Motors," Modica says. "It's been a great experience, working with terrific, skilled people. I'm positive that I've found my career - this is my path to it."

Under supervision, Modica is given many different learning opportunities. "No one just stands around here," Smith says. "Besides the work he's doing in transmission, Michael helps at the lube rack and wherever it gets busy -- he also shadows the mechanics and learns a lot while assisting."

Modica will need about five years of apprenticing and three levels of college courses before he can certify as an automotive service technician. His chosen path is not without challenge, but his goals are clearly set and his resume is already substantial.

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

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