ontario skilled trades

Ontario teens will soon have the option to skip Grade 12 for a skilled trades career

Polynomial functions and iambic pentameter may be important to some high school students, but it's long been argued that modern curriculums could stand a bit less Shakspeare and a lot more of the hard skills that will actually equip today's youth for the jobs of tomorrow.

Ontario's provincial government appears to have taken this message to heart, and then some, announcing a new program on Wednesday that will soon allow Grade 11 students to start working full-time as apprentices in the skilled trades while still earning their high-school diplomas.

"For far too long, parents and students have been told the only path to succeed in life is by going to university, which is simply not true," said Labour Minister Monte McNaughton when announcing the program this morning.

"When you have a career in the skilled trades, you have a career for life. Our government will continue to provide students with the tools they need to land well-paying and life-long careers."

The move, like several before it, is meant to help Ontario tackle a skilled labour shortage that's only expected to worsen in the coming years.

"In the construction sector alone, 72,000 new workers are needed by 2027 to fill open positions because of retirements and expected job growth," said the province in a news release Wednesday.

"To help deliver the province's infrastructure plans, including building 1.5 million homes by 2031, more people are needed in the skilled trades."

Ontario has rolled out several grant programs over the past year aimed at training new graduates or retraining experienced workers for careers in electricity, roofing, drywalling, auto manufacturing and construction, among other in-demand fields.

The Grade 11 skilled trades apprenticeship program is the first of its kind geared toward minors who have yet to graduate from high school.

"The Ontario government is preparing young people for in-demand and well-paying careers by allowing students in grade 11 to transition to a full-time, skilled trades apprenticeship program," reads the release announcing the program.

"Upon receiving their Certificate of Apprenticeship, these young workers can apply for their Ontario Secondary School Diploma as mature students. At a time when the province continues to face historic labour shortages, this change means that more students will be able to enter the trades faster than ever before to help build Ontario."

It's not clear when, exactly, students will have an opportunity to jump into the workforce early, but the province is also hoping to lower entry requirements for some of the 106 skilled trades that currently require a Grade 12 education.

"The government will begin consultations in fall 2023 with employers, unions, education stakeholders, trainers, parents, and others about ways to make it even easier for young people to enter a career in the trades," reads the release.

Details about which trades will be eligible for the program (there are over 140 skilled trades in Ontario, according to the province) are forthcoming, but the Ministry of Education says it is "working to recognize up to 30 credits required to earn the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) for individuals with a Certificate of Apprenticeship or equivalent."

"These changes provide students with exciting pathways to good-paying jobs and rewarding careers and support our government's ongoing work to attract more young people into the skilled trades," said Premier Doug Ford on Wednesday.

"Whether it's enhancing trades education in our schools, breaking down barriers for newcomers or upskilling workers, we're leaving no stone unturned to train the skilled workforce that will build Ontario."

Lead photo by

Peter Bethlenfalvy


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