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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Youth Force
Student digs his career choice

By Aunie Edwards
Special to the Toronto Sun


Relaying stories about the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) is an enviable job. Part of the task is to interview OYAP students, who can apprentice in a skilled trade while earning high school credits -- it's a front row view of motivated, dedicated, goal-oriented young achievers.
James Veltkamp is a high school senior, a member of OYAP, a working apprentice and a Level 1 graduate of the Humber College Horticulture program.


For my part, it's a regular examination of today's teen population with a recurring conclusion: that our future really is in good hands.

'Ability to multi-task'

That's right -- the younger generation is doing just fine -- and James Veltkamp is the proof. He's a senior at Sacred Heart C.H.S., a registered member of OYAP, a working apprentice, and a Level 1 graduate of the Humber College Horticulture program.

"James is a bright, mature young man who has shown an incredible ability to multi-task," says Terri Greco, program coordinator at Humber College. "While he completed high school credits, he was achieving his basic training as a Horticultural Technician and now he's begun his apprenticeship at Nice Landscape Design (where) he's excelled at each task."

In keeping with his multiple goals, Veltkamp intends to complete his advanced level training in horticulture while he embarks on a university path toward urban planning.

"The practical training of his co-op work and the university degree will be a tremendous combination of skills," says Ron Dorcas, co-op coordinator at Sacred Heart C.H.S. "He will add business, marketing, consulting and technical skills to his present hands-on apprenticeship training."

Such a mixture of practical with theory, art with business will provide Veltkamp with a wide range of career paths in an industry that is short on talent.

"This industry is exploding," Greco explains. "Consumers are ever more inclined to seek haven in their homes -- a place to unwind and a place to share with friends. James will possess skills in an industry with high demand for his talents."

Veltkamp will also be educated in an industry of urban mega-projects and that will be enhanced with a keen understanding of urban horticultural spaces.

Veltkamp's hard work and dedication are clearly the main drivers of his progress. But community business, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) and the York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) can also take a deep bow.

Veltkamp is currently working at Nice Landscape Design in Aurora, gaining apprenticeship hours and relevant skills toward his ultimate goals. Nice Landscape is a member of Landscape Ontario, a respected association of horticultural trades and a champion of Humber's apprenticeship program.
LANDSCAPE ONTARIO HORTICULTURAL TRADES ASSOCIATION
  • The Mission: To be the leader in representing, promoting and fostering a favourable environment for the advancement of the horticultural industry in Ontario.
  • Consumers can visit www.landscapeontario.com to locate a horticultural professional in their area.
  • Click on "consumers" to find an eight-step guide to choosing a Landscape Ontario member who can help you create a garden oasis at home.
  • This website also features the 230 new perennials, annuals, roses and woody plants of 2004, as seen in a special edition of the Landscape Trades magazine.


  • "James is getting a taste of the landscaping career lifestyle," Dorcas says. "Landscape Ontario and Nice Landscape understand the benefits of sharing professional knowledge and experience."

    "I'm learning excavation work, foundation work, proper drainage and maintaining grade in mainly residential projects," Veltkamp says. "The jobs are good and I love being outdoors."

    The MTCU sponsors OYAP and also plays a pivotal role in its practical success. "The ministry sets specific requirements, both from a secondary school diploma perspective and an apprenticeship perspective," Dorcas says. "As long as criteria are being satisfied, the training can be adjusted in accordance with skills requirements. For example, when James completed his Level 1 training at Humber, he had a three week gap before his co-op duties began. We were able to deal with James' in-class reflective requirements in that single block of time as opposed to meetings throughout his placement."

    This flexibility allows for a seamless transition between high school, college and the specific requirements of the skill. "The ministry must be on board, but we couldn't do this without also having the explicit support of the YCDSB and our savvy principal, Sharon Pickett, who has a strong appreciation for the goals and requirements of the initiative," Dorcas says.

    Dorcas is right, but Veltkamp is quick to add that his high school teacher plays a critical role in the overall success of OYAP. "Mr. Dorcas is unbelievably dedicated -- he cares about his students -- he's one of the best," Veltkamp says.



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