CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

On a mission

By Aunie Edwards
Special to the Toronto Sun

The ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) is a smart idea. It allows students to apprentice in a trade under the tutelage of career professionals, while earning high school credits.

"We've established OYAP in the high school system," says Sarkis Kay, of the York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB). "Our current mission is to expose OYAP and it's options to the generation of our future."

In keeping with this mission, the YCDSB and a variety of colleges joined forces to present a Grade 8 College Experience Day. One of the tours was held at Seneca College Centre for Advanced Technologies.

'Expose students'

"Our mission today is part of a co-ordinated effort to enable principals, teachers and guidance counselors to expose students to the prosperous career paths offered at colleges," says Ken Ellis, program co-ordinator at Seneca. "All educators must buy into this effort not only to aid pre-high school kids poised to start choosing their own curriculum but also to maintain a competitive, growth-minded city. Kids, teachers and parents are not always well versed in advanced technological avenues -- how can students know they have an interest, an affinity or a passion for technology unless we introduce them to it?"
Grade 8 student Peter DeCastro completes his project on the drill press under the watchful eye of mentor Kyle Nesbitt, a Grade 12 Cardinal Carter Catholic High School student who is enrolled in Seneca's CNC program.

Enter Eleanor Aresta's Grade 8 class from St. John Bosco C.H.S. -- a lively group of some 30 sponges, ready to absorb the world of continuing education and the vast opportunities of a tool and die or machining career. Says Ellis, "Using state-of -the-art equipment, our programs can lead to entrepreneurial, managerial, teaching, sales or vital industrial contributions -- our training can take kids wherever their ambitions lead."

"I'm impressed," Aresta says. "Seneca has engaged my students -- we're all realizing in a tangible way, the huge opportunities of a tool and die career and the kids are simultaneously being introduced to a post-secondary environment which can be very different from what they imagine."

Indeed, most of the class had no previous exposure to a college environment. Says one student, Ashley Alonzi, "This is my first visit to a college and I knew nothing about this industry -- today I've learned that just about everything is affected by the tool and die profession in some way."

"Some 'unknown' elements of post secondary and technology can be eliminated during these tours," agrees Ellis. "Having experienced our friendly, dynamic atmosphere, these kids can remove some of the perceived 'barriers' between them and the dreams they may choose to pursue."

And choice is what this exercise is about. "It's imperative that students have a chance to investigate all avenues," Kay says.

While youth orientation is new to many, Seneca has a long-standing, forward-thinking reputation built on the philosophy that curious high school students are always welcome.
  • Building a solar car is just one of Seneca's exciting manufacturing partnerships. Professors and students at the college are helping to build a leading edge solar powered vehicle in partnership with the X of 1 team.
  • X of 1 seeks to break the world record with their forward-thinking design. They've partnered with Seneca who can lend their expertise and state-of-the-art equipment to the fabrication of the metal components of the car.
  • The suspension system, custom wheel rims and vehicle exit and tilt mechanisms are part of the Seneca contributions.
  • To learn more about the solar car project, visit

  • "I've been a guest at Seneca for years," says Lawrence Cotton, head of technological studies at St. Elizabeth C.H.S. "I teach a two-credit program for Grade 12s interested in the field -- Seneca generously donates the use of their equipment and campus. It's a tremendous eye-opener for these kids -- they take great pride in their work, they enjoy the immediate application of mathematical principles and they get a view of what a great environment post-secondary can be."

    Fun project

    Cotton's students mentored the Grade 8 class, helping them design and create pen sets during their tour -- a fun project meant to provide a taste of hands-on skills.

    Professors Malcolm Archer and Patrick Ferguson guided the class as they drew a line connecting technological careers with their vital relevance in our lives.

    "We don't expect Grade 8 kids to know exactly what direction their future will take," Kay says, "We just want them to be aware of all the possibilities."

    Says one Grade 8 visitor, Peter DeCastro, "It's time to start considering my options. I appreciate this introduction."

    Mission accomplished.

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