Employers needed for fast-track trades

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Starting this fall, Haliburton Highlands Secondary School students will be able to take part in a fast-track program go get into the trades.

However, for it to work, employers will have to commit to taking on apprentices, said Jason Morissette, the high school’s co-op teacher.

The provincial government has announced that high school students who want a career in the trades will be able to spend up to 80 per cent of their time on training, and 20 per cent on academics, such as mandatory math and English classes.

Labour Minister David Piccini, during a May 1 press conference said, “we’re helping to tackle the labour shortage by allowing motivated entrepreneurial students to get on a fast-track to a career in the skilled trades.”

It means students in Grades 11 and 12 can start in the Focused Apprenticeship Skills Training (FAST) program. Between eight and 11 credits can be earned from trades training though co-op placements, while still needing math and English in Grade 11, and English in Grade 12.

Education minister Stephen Lecce said, “this is a significant increase in flexibility,” giving students many choices.

TLDSB manager of communications services, Carolynne Bull, said the school board currently has a “thriving” Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) and will be implementing the OYAP-FAST stream in the 2025-2026 school year.

“OYAP-FAST will allow students in Grades 11 and 12 to participate in full-time apprenticeship learning through 8 to 11 co-op credits in the skilled trades while pursuing their Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD), including continuing to attend classes to earn compulsory and optional credits. During course selection in the 20242025 school year, students will have the option to choose this stream,” she said.

Morissette likes the direction the province is going in.

“It allows a lot more student choice, and family choice, about their education. If I’m 16 years old, going into Grade 10 or 11, and I want to further my education in the skilled trades, then I’m not spending idle time in courses that aren’t for me anymore.”

He added while students may miss some “broad spectrum” courses, “this program will be for select students who are driven and can find and sign a registered training agreement (RTA).

“This is going to take community social change as well. We need our adults to mentor and sign an RTA for this program to work. The student will need to have an apprenticeship or else they cannot do this program.”

He said the students are not paid, employers do not have to hire students after co-op, and the school board takes care of the paperwork, and insurance for the students.

He sits on the Haliburton County Home Builders Association education committee.

“They really want partnerships. They really do see an aging demographic and they see that a lot of students aren’t getting exposed enough to skilled trades or they’re not understanding you can really make a good living, with incredible entrepreneurial opportunities.

“The only people who can mentor our young people about that is the people in our community that understand that.”

Morissette added this program is postsecondary education, and he would like to see the stigma around skilled trades finally eradicated. “It takes a village to raise our kids.”