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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Youth Force
Apprentice on fast track to success

By Linda White
Special to The Toronto Sun


As a stock car racer, Alyssa Petrou knows value of determination and the motivation that comes

with doing what you love. She's putting those skills to the test as she follows her dream of becoming an automotive service technician.

"As far back as I can remember, I've loved working with cars," says Petrou, 17, a Grade 11 student at Monsignor John Pereyma Catholic High School in Oshawa.
"If you love what you're doing, you have to go for it," says Grade 11 student and stock car racer Alyssa Petrou. She is following her dream of becoming an automotive service technician.


"I used to go to my dad's garage, take apart motors and put them back together again. When he got into stock car racing, I was his crew chief ... When I turned 16, I got behind the wheel and drove a stock car my father and I made from scratch."

Last year, Petrou raced a full season at Mosport International Speedway, just north of Bowmanville. She earned the most improved driver award, was named Rookie of the Year and hopes to one day qualify for NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) in the U.S.

"If you love what you're doing, you have to go for it," Petrou says. She is following her love of cars through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP), a school-work transition program sponsored by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

OYAP students follow a booklet that outlines the skills they must complete. Petrou is learning those skills at her father's shop, Lakefront Tire & Auto Centre in Oshawa. She is earning co-operative education credits toward her high school diploma, while the hours she works on the job are put toward journeyperson certification.

"She loves to learn and loves to work," Tom Petrou says. He has taken on many apprentices over the years. "It's a good learning experience for students."
Alyssa Petrou


The ministry launched OYAP in 1998 with just 1,300 students. In 2002-2003, more than 12,000 students participated in the program.

"As more and more students have positive experiences and gain apprenticeships, the word about OYAP is getting out," says Stacey Ritchie, co-op teacher at Monsignor John Pereyma.

"Students are gaining employability skills, marketability skills and are networking within the community. They're getting their first level of apprenticeship training as they earn high school credits. It's a package deal."

For students like Petrou, OYAP puts them on the fast track to their chosen career. "Alyssa is going to be a full-fledged technician earning full pay much sooner than peers who don't get such an early start," Ritchie says.

Even students who decide they're not cut out for their chosen trade benefit. "There's no loss," Ritchie says. "They have earned four high school co-op credits, have learned on the job, grown as a person and have references. They have time to focus on another career before they've wasted their time and money on a course not suitable for them."

It's an opportunity for students to explore their options. "High school students have big decisions to make," Ritchie says. "Co-op allows them to learn about a field, what training or education is needed to succeed in that field. That knowledge is invaluable.

"There are so many different pathways students can take to achieve their goals. Alyssa really knows this is her path."

(Linda White (linda.white@rogers.com) is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont.)



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