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Education, Training and Apprenticeships

Stepping Up: Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program

Case Study

Photo of woman wearing a hard hat

The Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) is a School to Work program that gives students the opportunity to work as apprentices in Grades 11-12, through the Cooperative Education program. Partnerships between school boards and employers, who provide the apprenticeship placements, are key to the success of the program. Students benefit from the opportunity to become registered apprentices and work towards becoming certified journey persons in a skilled trade, while completing their secondary school diplomas – and employers have the opportunity to train the skilled workers they need.

Tiffany Sherri Caldwell's Story...

Tiffany Sherri Caldwell is a welder apprentice registered with the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program. In her second semester of Grade 12 at Saugeen District Secondary School in Port Elgin, Tiffany was accepted into a co-op placement at Bruce Power in the Central Maintenance Facility shop. Through the program, she was able to improve her welding and successfully earn her welder certification. With the support of her parents, Tiffany was also able to improve her performance at school, and was awarded the 2009 Excellence in Manufacturing Award and the 2010 NAPA Automotive Award.

"My mom forced me to take a welding course in Grade 10, and the day I struck my first arc, I was hooked. My first project, a garden arbour that stands almost two and a half metres tall, was a great accomplishment. The second was a garden bench in a butterfly shape that I designed. In my last year of welding, I designed and welded my own graduation rose bouquet. I also welded a boutonnière for my senior prom date. I wasn't one of the most popular girls in school and spent my days in the welding shop. Imagine my surprise when I was crowned prom queen! A certified welder becomes prom queen! You will always miss 100 per cent of the arcs you do not strike, so - grab that stinger, flip the helmet, and strike that arc! Let those sparks of success fly!" –Tiffany Sherri Caldwell

Education, Training and Apprenticeships

Outcomes #7, 8, 9

Realizing youth potential through education

The current and future generations of young people in Ontario present great promise. Whether they can lead happy and productive lives as adults depends largely on what they experience in their school years and their first jobs.

Education, Training and Apprenticeships matter to young Ontarians:

A strong education can help young people to become successful, confident, creative, active and informed citizens. Education also promotes positive development and builds self-sufficiency. We know that supportive learning environments are linked to student achievement, better paying jobs, and enhanced wellbeing.

And they're important for Ontario:

When young people have a strong education, they have an increased chance of getting a job, succeeding in the workplace, and becoming community leaders. Providing young Ontarians with access to a range of training opportunities to pursue their interests and skills enables them to contribute to their communities.

Snapshot of Youth Education and Training in Ontario

Ontario is making top grades: Ontario's 15-year-old students are among the best readers in the world. In fact, Ontario's education system was ranked as one of the best in the world.119 More and more of Ontario's youth are succeeding, graduating and moving on to postsecondary education. Ontario's high-school graduation rate has risen in each of the last seven years, going from 68 per cent in 2003-04 to 82 per cent in 2010-11.120We recognize that lifelong learning is as important as graduating to ensure that youth have the skills they need.

Ontario was among the top-achieving jurisdictions in the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) reading assessment of 15-year-old students. Internationally, Ontario was a top-scoring jurisdiction and nationally, Ontario was the only province to score significantly higher than the Canadian average in PISA reading.121

Some youth face challenges: While many of Ontario's youth are succeeding in school, we also know that racialized youth, Aboriginal youth, youth in and leaving care and some other marginalized groups of young people in Ontario have persistently poorer outcomes in education than their peers.

There is a persistent gap in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal high school completion rates among youth aged 15 to 24 (20 per cent in 2006).122

Closing the achievement gap for students with special education needs: Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) achievement results for Grades 3, 6 and 9 students with special education needs have seen significant increases since 2002–03. Ontario schools have made great gains in increasing student achievement and closing the gap for students with special education needs.

The job market is shifting: Shifts in Ontario's job market include a rise in service-oriented industries, and a greater need for young people in skilled trades. Seventy per cent of future jobs in Ontario are expected to require postsecondary credentials or be in management.123 We know it is important to ensure young people are prepared with the skills to meet this demand.

Ontario has 20 publicly funded universities and 24 community colleges that contribute to the development of Ontario's innovation economy through the education and training of a highly skilled workforce.124

Education is evolving: Technology-enabled learning is on the rise in our classrooms, bringing with it new ways for students and teachers to access information (Internet resources, online learning, electronic periodical indices, eBooks). Cooperative education and other forms of experiential learning (job shadowing, field trips, work experience, internships) have also become essential and commonplace in Ontario's education system.

Ensure young people get the skills they need


Photo of three young people using a video camera

Young people growing up in Ontario today need to develop a diverse set of skills to help them respond to the modern workplace and be prepared to adapt to future economic and social changes.

Supporting young people to get the skills they need includes:

Continuing to invest in world-leading education: Primary, secondary and postsecondary education is the most important aspect of skills building for Ontario youth. The skills, talents and ambitions young people develop through education and training will shape their path as adults and enhance the contributions they make to Ontario's future workforce and society as a whole. By continuing to support meaningful school-based learning, we can encourage youth to learn and develop a diverse set of skills and the competencies they need to succeed.

Building 21st century skills: Recent research has identified the following "Six Cs" as skills youth need in order to thrive and be leaders in the modern world: character, citizenship, communication, critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration and teamwork, and creativity and imagination.125 Supporting young people to develop these key qualities can ensure they are prepared to excel and lead – this requires innovative thinking and an entrepreneurial approach to learning.126

Youth learning to speak a second language is becoming more important in today's economy and can contribute to long-term financial success.127

Providing opportunities for hands-on learning: Experiential learning, mentoring and entrepreneurial education are becoming more common in education globally.128 Experiential learning opportunities can help young people appreciate the relevance of what they are learning in school. By participating in activities such as job shadowing or taking field trips where they can engage in hands-on learning, young people have the opportunity to connect with issues and ideas outside the classroom and build self-efficacy as they learn more about what they enjoy doing.

Outcome we want:

#7 Ontario youth achieve academic success.

How we can tell:


Reflect diverse learning needs in education and program pathways

Enhancing Ontario's strong education system includes focusing on increasing student achievement, closing achievement gaps among students and increasing public confidence. By embracing a culture of collaborative inquiry we can seek more effective ways of teaching and learning and support transitions for students.

Some important aspects of education that responds to young people's needs include:

Accommodating different learning styles: All students require support from educators, peers, families, and communities to achieve their full potential in learning. Research demonstrates that young people can have different learning styles and preferences, and that they are most engaged in learning when their particular interests, level of readiness and preferences are addressed.129 By using differentiated learning strategies, educators can adapt to individual styles, strengths, goals and interests. Embracing the diversity of cultural learning styles through inclusive discussions, teaching, and accommodation for religious backgrounds supports all youth to succeed.

Responding to unique needs: Students with special education requirements – such as young people with disabilities or special needs and young people who speak English as a second language (ESL) – may require accommodations or specialized educational services to meet their learning needs. Individual Education Plans are created to describe students' individual strengths and needs and the special education programs and services they require.

Research on today's youth indicates that many prefer to learn by doing. They are more likely to prefer kinesthetic, experiential and hands-on learning, and are more likely to be adept at quick thinking and multi-tasking.130

Harnessing technology-enabled learning: Advances in technology have created new ways to access information and new opportunities for students to learn and interact with teachers and peers.131 Technology-enabled learning can support youth to complete high school and enter postsecondary education or training.132 For youth with disabilities, tools such as screen readers and speech-to-text software improve access, participation and outcomes.133 Technology can also increase access for learners facing financial, personal or geographic barriers to school.134

Ontario's E-Learning Strategy is a digital educational platform that offers high-quality online courses for all students regardless of their location, learning ability or circumstances. Young learners have the flexibility to access class resources anywhere and anytime.135

Re-engaging youth at-risk: Students who drop out of school generally lack employable skills. Evidence suggests that at-risk youth who graduate also exhibit a similar learning gap when compared to dropouts.136 School dropouts and at-risk youth require extra supports to re-engage them in learning. When youth face setbacks in their education and training, we know that they benefit from having access to flexible options to re-engage, recover credits and complete their schooling. Providing a range of options for training in apprenticeships, college, university or on-the-job training helps to keep doors open for youth to pursue their interests and talents. Instilling a sense of ownership and a lifelong commitment to learning is just as important to future success as academic accomplishments.

Among the young adults who were followed by the Youth in Transition Survey, 55 per cent of those aged 26 to 28 who had left high school came back to complete their diploma. One-third moved on to postsecondary education.137

Outcome we want:

#8 Ontario youth have educational experiences that respond to their needs and prepare them to lead.

How we can tell:


Increase success in postsecondary education and apprenticeships


Photo of three young people in a library

In today's labour market, more jobs require young people to have postsecondary credentials. Meanwhile, some sector councils that explore labour needs have identified skills gaps in occupations with an adequate supply of credentialed workers.

Supporting young people's participation in postsecondary education and skilled trades includes:

Supporting participation in apprenticeships and training: With many of our skilled tradespeople – such as chefs, educational assistants, electricians and plumbers – approaching retirement, Ontario's apprenticeship system is a critical part of building a well-educated and highly skilled provincial workforce.138 Apprenticeships provide youth with the opportunity to learn a skilled occupation by combining in-school training courses with paid on-the-job training.139 Recent reports have identified a shortage of workers in skilled trades and noted that although opportunities for training and apprenticeships exist, parents and students may not fully appreciate the opportunities that these credentials can offer.140, 141 Supporting participation in apprenticeships and training includes improving access to apprenticeships for key groups, including newcomer youth, Aboriginal people and women. It also means supporting apprentices to complete their training and find the right jobs.142

There are more than 150 apprenticeship trades in Ontario's apprenticeship system.143

Broadening postsecondary success for at-risk youth: At 65 per cent, Ontario's postsecondary education (including apprenticeship, college and university education) attainment rate is above the Canadian average of 64 per cent. The province has the second highest postsecondary education attainment rate among Canadian jurisdictions, trailing only Quebec for three consecutive years. Ontario also has the highest rate of college and university education among the 34 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).144 However, we know that some young people have challenges accessing and attaining postsecondary education, for example, Aboriginal youth, youth with disabilities or special needs, youth from low-income families and youth who are the first in their family to obtain postsecondary education. These youth have relatively low rates of participation in postsecondary education145 and may need extra support to reach their full potential.

Approximately 29 per cent of first generation students whose parents have less than a secondary school diploma went on to higher education, compared to over 72 per cent for students whose parents had at least an undergraduate degree.146

There is a growing interest in work-integrated learning (WIL) as a model of improving effective transitions between postsecondary education and the labour market. Postsecondary institutions, students and faculty are increasingly recognizing the importance of workplace learning in graduates.147

Outcome we want:

#9 Ontario youth access diverse training and apprenticeship opportunities.

How we can tell:


What is Ontario doing to support these outcomes?

The Government of Ontario has a number of initiatives that support education, training and apprenticeships:


Student Success / Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) program

As part of the Ontario government's Student Success plan to help more students graduate, get a job, start an apprenticeship, or move on to higher education, 38,000 students are currently participating in the Specialist High Skills Major program. The SHSM program helps youth find out what they love to do early, so they can start working on landing the jobs of the future.

Pathways to Education

Pathways to Education helps youth in low-income communities graduate from high school and successfully transition into postsecondary education. Embedded within local organizations -and dedicated to equality, inclusion and accessibility - Pathways addresses systemic barriers to education by providing a set of academic, financial and social supports to youth. High school drop-out rates in Pathways communities have been reduced by up to 70 per cent, and the rate at which youth go on to college or university has increased by up to 300 per cent.

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