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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Campaign aims to build tomorrow's workforce

By Linda White
Special to the Toronto Sun

Employers are being asked to help build tomorrow's workforce by opening their doors to high school students interested in exploring a variety of careers before deciding what to do for a living.
Socrates Apallas enjoyed a taste of being an entrepreneur while working as a co-op student with Prudential Properties Plus in Toronto.

That's among the goals of Passport to Prosperity, a provincial campaign launched in 1999 to increase employer awareness of and participation in work experiences. The campaign encourages business and educators to work together to develop a skilled and educated workforce.

"Young people work along steps to understanding what the work world is, beginning with an awareness of career options and exposure to the work world to hands-on experience and finally employment," says Richard Allen, executive director of the Industry Education Council of Hamilton and co-chair of the Ontario Business Education Partnership.

The Provincial Partnership Council is leading the Passport to Prosperity campaign. It is working with the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and the Ontario Business Education Partnership, which represents business-education councils and local training boards.

"It's very much a community-driven campaign," says Allen. "Most communities would create an advisory committee that could identify employers who are already engaged in school-work initiatives or target employers who could provide school-work opportunities ... It's much more strategic than just any job will do."

Work experiences vary in length, from a workplace tour or career talk in a classroom to an apprenticeship. A workplace supervisor can serve as a trainer, mentor, supervisor or coach. The employer, student and teacher develop a learning plan before the student begins their work placement.

Passport to Prosperity benefits all involved, Allen believes. "Employers often say it cuts down on recruitment costs because they can scout out potential employees ... It can also be a cost-effective way of increasing productivity in a workplace. A lot of young people come in with a skill set that is complementary to a more seasoned employee, such as use of computers and Internet technology."
  • Passport to Prosperity is a provincial campaign that helps high school students explore career options and develop workplace skills by finding more employers to offer work experience.
  • Examples of school-work programs include workplace tours, job shadowing, mentoring, co-operative education, school-work transitions and the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP).
  • For more information, visit the Ontario Learning Partnership Group at or call 1-888-672-7996.

  • Students can explore careers while developing good work habits and attitudes. "School-work programs give students a chance to try before they buy, ideally before they fine-tune a career path of choice," Allen says. "A paid work experience allows them to save money for their post-secondary education."

    Amy Parps, a Grade 12 student at White Oaks Secondary School in Oakville, is following her dream of becoming a horticulture technician through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program.

    She's been working at Sheridan Nurseries in Mississauga for the past year and plans to continue her studies at college next year. "I've done transplanting and watering and some customer service. It's taught me a lot about the different kinds of jobs in the industry and how companies are run," Parps says.

    Socrates Apallas of Scarborough enjoyed a taste of being an entrepreneur while working as a co-op student with Prudential Properties Plus in Toronto. "I have always wanted to do real estate and this gave me a taste of what the job would be like," says the Wexford Collegiate Institute graduate.

    "I had a chance to job shadow several agents. I attended open houses, was involved in marketing, was part of negotiations and attended real estate seminars," Apallas says. He's now taking creative advertising at college and plans to become a licensed real estate agent.

    Employers enjoy many rewards, says Craig Harding, a Prudential agent who worked with Apallas. "These young people are fresh, enthusiastic and have lots of good ideas. They're so up on technology and are able to transfer that into the workplace," he says.

    Passport to Prosperity can also be a turning point for students at risk of dropping out. "A meaningful work experience can reinforce their willingness to stay in school. It gives relevancy to their education," Allen says.

    "Behind all this philosophy of exposing students to the world of work, we're not suggesting that students leave school for work. Rather, the emphasis is on lifelong learning."

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