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Gap between workplace, school bridged. (Training & Education).

Only about 65 per cent of high school graduates opt to continue their education through post-secondary programs, but alternatives to university or college are available, which exist to help bridge the gap between school and the workforce.

High school students looking to accelerate their careers in skilled trades can take an apprenticeship program through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) to achieve their dream, while still completing their high school education.

OYAP is a program that offers senior high school students the opportunity to train as registered apprentices while still getting their high school diploma.

"OYAP can accelerate a student's career path in a trade by several years," says Sharon Orlak, co-ordinator of OYAP for the Rainbow District School Board.

The average age of an apprentice in Ontario is 26 to 28, while the average age of an OYAP student apprentice is 18.

"OYAP students are well ahead of their peers," says Orlak. "They are earning while they are learning."

About 80 to 90 per cent of the program takes place in the workplace. The remaining time is spent doing theory at a local college, university or authorized education delivery institution. The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities picks up most of the tab for the theory work, lowering the cost to the student.

"There is a low debt load towards their education, as opposed to going to university for four years," says Orlak.

Job Futures 2000 predicts by 2007, more than one third of jobs created will require skilled trades or a college diploma. There is also a looming retirement binge about to commence as the baby boomer generation retires and leaves a void of skilled trades jobs, which need to be replaced.

"Skilled trades are the backbone to our economy."

OYAP provides an alternative to college or university and offers more to the prospective student.

"To have a skilled trade is an additional option people can fall back on," says Orlak.

Emmanuel Julian Diaz, 19, is one student who capitalized on the OYAP initiative and has been rewarded with full-time employment.

"OYAP allowed me to get out into the workforce more quickly," Diaz says.

Diaz heard of OYAP while he was in his last year of high school in Sudbury. His interest in the program was heightened when he found out he could take an information technology program and become a registered apprentice in information technology.

"I was not keen on going to college or university because I have always thrived in an actual hands-on environment," says Diaz. "I have always worked, from Grade 9 onward."

Diaz has been employed full time with Aurora Microsystems in Sudbury for almost a year now, dealing with IT business solutions.

"OYAP gave me the opportunity to get in here and it directed me in the right direction," Diaz says.

Diaz says the OYAP program is a perfect fit for students who enjoy a practical, hands-on approach to learning.

"Certain people learn differently, and hands-on is what I needed," says Diaz. "You can quickly find out if it is for you."

Kevin Fitzgerald, president of Aurora Microystems, says OYAP is a great program.

"It is critical for students to get real-world experience," Fitzgerald says.

Fitzgerald got involved with OYAP because of his university co-op program experience.

"I found the experience to be very valuable to myself before I went out into the real world," says Fitzgerald. "It allowed us to participate with local educational facilities and help young people."

Fitzgerald enjoys the fresh ideas and the enthusiastic disposition young people bring to his business, but he does think the program could be enhanced.

"There could be some sort of funding back to the employer because the Ministry of Education today pays schools and teachers to train people and I think their perception on this program is when they place a student somewhere that employer is getting free labour," says Fitzgerald. "When you take into account overheads that are associated with training somebody, and the time involved with that management and technical people involved, it can be very expensive, especially if there are mistakes made that have to be smoothed over."

Fitzgerald has rated his experiences with apprenticeship programs as a 50/50 split between positive and negative.

"The positive is what keeps you going and participating in hopes that there wrn be more changes and more people listening to feedback on changes."

In the school year of 1998-99 there was 1,500 students involved with OYAP in Ontario. For 2001-02 there was close to 10,000 students involved.

"The program has grown quickly and I have every reason it will continue to grow," says Orlak.
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Title Annotation:Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program
Author:Haddow, Scott Hunter
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Apr 1, 2003
Words:773
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