Ontario high school program will let students train for a trade and earn a diploma

Students will soon be able to leave school in Grade 11 to train for a career in the skilled trades — but they won’t miss out on getting their high school diploma under a new premier program is touting as a “game changer.”

“This new initiative will help more students enter the skilled trades faster,” Doug Ford said at a Wednesday announcement at St. Mary Catholic high school in Pickering.

“It will provide more young women and men opportunities for good paying, in-demand jobs and rewarding careers. This new pathway will be a game changer for so many students and their families and supports our government’s ongoing work to attract more young people into the skilled trades to help build Ontario.”

The province has an acute shortage of workers, and by 2026 one in five jobs will be in the skilled trades, Ford noted. Some 72,000 workers will be needed in the next four years in construction alone.

The government has been looking for a “better, simpler, faster way to get students from high school into the skilled trades” and will also be holding consultations to balance both the training and academic skills needed for this new initiative, Education Minister Stephen Lecce told the Star.

It will mean Grade 11 students can move into full-time trade apprenticeships — with the province opening up to the number of apprenticeships available at that age — while allowing that training to count for diploma credits so teens can also graduate with a high school diploma.

The move will also help improve the high school graduation rate — which currently sits at 89 per cent.

Lecce, who was also at the announcement, said with the province’s new program is ensuring that high school diplomas better recognize “the real life and job experience, often of young adults, that the system currently doesn’t capture.”

The skilled trades suffer from stigma, especially among parents, which the government has been trying to address by introducing information about such careers to students at a younger age, as well as touting the salaries — which for some trades are six figures — and benefits, such as pensions to broaden the appeal.

Providing academic credentials helps make the trades more attractive to students and parents.

And those efforts have paid off, noted Labor Minister Monte McNaughton, with 23 per cent more people signing up for apprenticeships last year, with a 29 per cent increase for females.

“We know that young people want to pursue the skilled trades as a career,” Lecce told the Star. “We’ve seen a massive increase in skilled trades within our schools because of the actions our government took, but we still feel like there’s a gap between our education system and the employment system.”

He said currently, more than 30 skilled trades can be learned without a high school diploma, after Grade 10, but there are 106 other trades that require high school diplomas “and the question is looking at the entry requirements for those from the high school side , figuring out if there’s a better way and a quicker way to get them there from high school.”

The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association has said it would like to see “even more focus at the provincial and local elementary and secondary school levels to help students and parents develop positive attitudes toward the trades and be provided with more ‘hands on’ and experience learning opportunities.”


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