CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Youth Force
Work and school go hand-in-hand

By Linda White
Special to the Toronto Sun

From standing atop a chair as a youngster while helping her mom prepare family meals to spinning crepes on Queen Street, chef apprentice Madison Rose has discovered the perfect blend of education and experience.
Chef apprentice Madison Rose, a recent graduate of Marc Garneau Collegiate, loves the "creativity and energy of work" at her OYAP placement at Cafe Crepe in Toronto.

"I love the creativity and energy of work," says Rose, a recent graduate of Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute in Toronto. "I started out doing a lot of prep work and have moved on to more intricate recipes. I've learned proper knife and other techniques."

Rose was in a special math and science program at school, but always loved cooking and explored the trade through a co-op placement at Cafe Crepe in Toronto.

"I always had an interest in being a chef. I've always loved reading recipes and cooked with my mom for as long as I can remember," she says.

She signed up with the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) for a trade in the service sector. According to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, the proportion of Ontario workers employed in that sector has grown from more than half to nearly three-quarters over the last 30 years.

"The Ministry continues to expand the opportunities available through apprenticeships," says David Gibson, curriculum leader of Marc Garneau's co-op department. "There are more than 130 trades to choose from."

The school is home to many immigrants and co-op placement is an important stepping-stone. "For many, co-op is their first Canadian job experience. We make sure it's a safe place to work and offer students safety training, so parents can be assured their children are being monitored," Gibson says.
  • The Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) is a school-work transition program sponsored by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.
  • Students receive co-operative education credits through placement in a construction, automotive, manufacturing or service trade.
  • The hours they work on the job are put toward journeyperson certification.
  • The Ministry launched OYAP in 1998 with 1,300 students. In 2002-2003, more than 12,000 students participated in the program. -- Ministry of Education and Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (

  • "It's the beginning of their network. Their employers will become mentors and act as references as they get a foothold in the job market. Many will be paid as they're being trained. It helps break into unions, which don't want people working without being paid."

    Experience is especially important in the hospitality sector, reports Steven Caines, a supervisor at Cafe Crepe. "It's hard getting your foot in the door without experience. Co-op students learn so much and quickly become an asset."

    Students learn valuable skills. "It's an introduction to the real world," Caines says. "They feel good about what they're doing, meet new people and see new things. They learn how to deal with people, how to deal with problems and how to multi-task. They learn about an employer's expectations."

    The experience is equally rewarding for employers. "Madison is eager and energetic. She wants to learn and wants to help," Caines says. "Helping her learn about the industry gives us the satisfaction of knowing we're helping someone find a career path that's right for them."

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