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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Youth Force
Apprentice in the driver's seat of his future

By Linda White
Special to The Toronto Sun

As the automotive industry keeps pace with change, mastering the computer technology that drives today's vehicles is key to a successful career as a service technician.

That translates into a unique opportunity for Charles Leung, a recent graduate of A.Y. Jackson Secondary School in North York. "I have always been interested in cars and the science and technology behind them. That's why I chose this field."

The 18-year-old began a co-op placement at Agincourt Chrysler in September and registered with the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) at the same time.
"I didn't know I would learn so much ... it's been a really good experience," says automotive apprentice Charles Leung, left, with service manager Ian Lowe at Agincourt Chrysler.

After learning how to do oil changes, Leung began working alongside a master mechanic in the engine and tune-up department. "He brings a book to show me how things work. I didn't know I would learn so much. We take out engines, do head gaskets and big jobs like that. It's been a really good experience."

Since graduating in January, Leung has been hired to work at the shop as a car jockey and to do oil changes. He looks forward to continuing his apprenticeship and taking required courses with the support of his employer.

"I believe we have to develop our future technicians," says service manager Ian Lowe. "I am committed to taking on two students each semester. If we find one with the desire and ability to turn into a good service technician, we're happy.

"We try to give students guidance ... We offer hands-on experience they just can't get at school," Lowe says. "They can decide if this is where they want to go. They have an opportunity to get a career they can make a living at ... It's very rewarding to help build that person."

OYAP has helped thousands of students like Leung explore career options while they're still in high school. Sponsored by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, OYAP helps students obtain placements in one of 130 skilled trades in the auto service, construction, service and manufacturing sectors.

Students must be at least 16-years-old before registering with OYAP. They earn co-operative education credits through placement in an apprenticeship while completing their diploma. At the same time, the hours they work on the job are put towards journeyperson certification.

The expansion of computer technology has broadened the range of interests and abilities essential for success in both automotive and motive power services, the ministry reports on its website (

Apprenticeship allowed Leung to test drive those interests and abilities.

"Charles learned so much at his placement," says co-op teacher Marlene Hall. "He kick started a career he's interested in. The experience confirmed this is the field he wants to be in."

OYAP is a valuable school-work transition program, Hall maintains. "I came to teaching from the business world and believe OYAP gives students an incredible opportunity to explore a career of their choice. They also learn what it's like to be treated as an employee. I'm pleased to see the opportunities that are available to students, as they learn there is a career path to skilled trades."

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

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