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Plumbing program puts high school student on fast track

By Linda White
Special to the Toronto Sun

A compressed plumbing program for high school students who've completed or nearly completed their diploma is designed to fast track their apprenticeship training, saving them time and money.
Student Justin Virag, left, landed a co-op placement at Hoerner Heating

The two-semester program is offered at Central Technical School at Bloor and Bathurst Streets and is open to students across Toronto. The school has offered plumbing courses since the 1960s.

"A lot of our co-op employers are our graduates," says co-op teacher Pat McIntyre. "We hope students are launched into employment with their co-op employer."

Students take five plumbing courses taught by a licenced plumber and take co-op for another two credits. At the same time, they register with the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP), a school-work transition program sponsored by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

OYAP allows students to begin training in a skilled trade while they're still in high school. They receive co-operative education credits through placement in an apprenticeship occupation while completing their diploma. The hours they work on the job are put towards journeyperson certification.

Plumbing students who successfully complete the high school credits can write an exemption test for the first level of their apprenticeship training. "That allows them to keep working. They also save $400 on first level training courses," McIntyre says.

For student Justin Virag, the program gave him the direction he needed. "I knew I wanted to get in the workforce right after high school, but I didn't know what I wanted to do," he says.

Virag went to Central Tech to complete one credit for his high school diploma and decided to register in the plumbing program at the same time. By the time he earned his diploma, he had also found a career.
  • A plumber assembles, installs, maintains and repairs piping systems such as water, waste, drains and vents, including fixtures and appliances for home and industrial use, as well as process piping.
  • To be successful in this trade, you need communications, mechanical aptitude, blueprint reading and analytical skills. Apprenticeship training is recommended . It typically takes four to five years to complete apprenticeship training.

    -- Ministry of Education and Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (

  • "It's pretty physically demanding work, but I enjoy it," he says. "It offers a lot of opportunity. A lot of apprentices get their licences and pursue their own business."

    He competed at a regional skills competition, where he was up against older competitors who had chosen the trade as their second career.

    "This program definitely gives you a head start," Virag says. "There's a lot of opportunity because there's a shortage in the trade."

    Virag landed a co-op placement at Hoerner Heating & Plumbing, a family-operated business that works primarily in the residential sector.

    "He's got a good attitude," owner Andrew Hoerner says.

    "He uses drain cleaning equipment, has been soldering and threading pipes, keeps the truck stocked and works in the warehouse. He's quickly becoming familiar with the trade."

    To find out more about the program, contact Central Technical Institute at 416-393-0070.

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