The Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario [CDSBEO], through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) and Experiential Learning, has made significant changes to the delivery mode of some of its programs in response to COVID 19 restrictions. The change to virtual learning has created many new exciting opportunities for these programs.
The goal of the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program has been to promote skilled trades as a viable and attractive alternative to traditional post secondary programs. OYAP program participation has risen, and more students are choosing this pathway and will receive the benefits associated with apprenticeships and education placements.
Dan Lortie, OYAP Coordinator, presented information to the CDSBEO Board on the upcoming program virtual events, and how learning opportunities have changed for students.
“For obvious reasons this year, the annual SKLZ competition at St Lawrence College, which featured over 300 students in 17 competition areas, cannot take place,” he explained. “To fill the void, CDSBEO OYAP introduced the Backyard Challenge for 2020 2021. The year long competition challenges participating schools to choose one of two shed designs to build, and submit quarterly video reports on progress.”
Schools have full autonomy to decide the finishes, with the goal of selling the finished product for profit, which would in turn be donated toward the school technology programs for equipment, maintenance, or repairs. In some cases, schools have decided to donate the profits.
“The students at Notre Dame Catholic High School have teamed up with their MEP (special education) program, and will be modifying the shed to create a functional greenhouse that the school will be able to use for years to come.”
Currently, both the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (which funds OYAP), are working with school boards to target grade 7 and 8 students to encourage pathways to the skilled trades. One initiative this year to engage students in grades 7 and 8, is the OYAP Race Car Challenge.
“Over 1200 kits were sent out to schools across the board, which included teacher resources with information on OYAP, the Specialist High Skills Major program, and Experiential Learning opportunities.”
CDSBEO OYAP has also launched a social media presence, to help highlight and feature students who have successfully followed the OYAP path to a successful career outcome, in addition to events and opportunities for students.
Mr. Lortie noted a few other events which will be held this year, including the Women in Trades virtual event on February 17, a Virtual Career Fair for Prescott Russell schools in March, and two additional skilled trades information sessions in April featuring available learning opportunities, career pathways, and why working in the skilled trades is a viable career option.