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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Youth Force
Auto apprentice shifts future into high gear

By Aunie Edwards
Special to The Toronto Sun

"For education to really work, it has to be all things for all people," says Julia Balaisis, co-op coordinator at Cardinal Carter Catholic High School. "On an individual basis, the cost to make this premise a reality is prohibitive -- our mandate as educators is to find solutions, cost-effective ways that allow education to work for everyone."

In a smart collaboration between the York Catholic District School Board, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, community businesses and educators like Julia Balaisis, students can choose an apprenticeship -- one more way to make good education accessible.
Through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program, Joseph Lanzolla, left, can complete his automotive service technician apprenticeship at his father Leo's shop, J & L Auto Service.

The partnership is called the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) - an opportunity for students to apprentice in a skilled trade, gaining hours and skills toward certification while satisfying school requirements and earning high school credits. "Through OYAP, we're basically outsourcing segments of education to the business sector," Balaisis says. "These co-op opportunities are a way to clarify career options, explore the world of business and mature toward a smoother school to work transition."

Joseph Lanzolla is a Grade 11 student at Cardinal Carter and is benefiting from exactly this scenario. Within the parameters of an OYAP registered co-op placement, Lanzolla is attending classes in the mornings and working at J & L Auto Service in the afternoons. It's a mutually beneficial arrangement -- Lanzolla is learning the automotive service technician trade while the owner, Leo Lanzolla, is able to train his son in the skill that has supported his family for two generations.

No one could be more pleased with the arrangement than Leo Lanzolla: "Joseph has been getting dirty in this shop all his life -- he's now using his time toward a real future that he's good at -- OYAP gives kids a serious direction and a real chance to succeed. In fact, my son Jonathan plans to follow his older brother in the same program."

"The beauty of OYAP is that it offers individual flexibility within a well-considered formula," Balaisis says. "We don't see family arrangements everyday, but the ministry allows it -- and that's great, because the Lanzollas are fulfilling every requirement, and OYAP is catapulting Joseph's education forward."

Lanzolla is achieving many goals. "I'm always learning here --- I do oil changes and brake jobs, and I assist two licensed technicians," he says. "I'm also trying to learn the business side of things -- this is a family shop, and I want to know how to maintain its profit."

Says Leo Lanzolla, "It's very important to learn the business of running the shop, just as it's important to become licensed so that he is fully aware of all the issues.

"And servicing cars has changed a lot over the years -- I'd like Joe to focus on the computer technology under the hood as well. He's definitely got his hands full."

Indeed, Lanzolla will have to achieve 7,500 hours of skilled training and three blocks of college classes before he can certify as an automotive service technician.

He's complementing his training with business and job skills classes at Cardinal Carter. It's hard work, but Lanzolla is doing well, and his supervisor is his biggest fan.

Says Leo: "I suppose I expect more from Joseph, but I know he can do -- will do -- more than I have and more than my father before me."

"I have a great relationship with my dad," Lanzolla says. "I enjoy the work and OYAP's given me a new focus -- what was once a fun hobby is now a great career." For Joseph Lanzolla and his family, the OYAP education system is really working.

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

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