Soon, Ontario Students Can Leave High School at Grade 11 to Enter the Skilled Trades

By Logan Bright Modified on March 13, 2023
Tags : Careers | News | Skilled Trades | STEM | Tech

Changes to the Ontario high school curriculum will make becoming a skilled tradesperson quicker and easier.

Soon, Ontario Students Can Leave High School at Grade 11 to Enter the Skilled Trades

Conversations about the skilled trades in Canada are happening at all levels, from the federal government to provincial labour departments, from private companies to non-profit organizations, and just about everyone in between.

The reason is simple: Canada needs more skilled tradespeople in all sorts of areas. Most high school graduates choose the college or university path, earning a diploma or degree that may or may not lead directly to a career. Not enough students are choosing the skilled trades route, which is unfortunate, as this route can lead to stable, dynamic careers where you earn money while learning a trade — and you'll work to build the future of the country!

In an effort to encourage students to explore their options in the trades, the Ontario government has announced that soon, students will be able to leave high school in grade 11 — generally the third year of a four-year high school education — and enroll in skilled trades training that will also help them complete their high school diploma. So students interested in the trades can skip grade 12!

New apprenticeship options for grade 11 students

Currently, most trades require a completed high school diploma to pursue. Students can take classes in trades in high school, but still need to follow the standard apprenticeship pathway after graduation. The changes proposed here will instead let students get a jump-start by choosing to start an apprenticeship while still in high school. The apprenticeship will count towards a completed high school diploma.

Why pursue the skilled trades in the first place?

Outside of the shortage of skilled workers in many fields, which may make finding a stable position easier than other industries, most tradespeople earn an excellent living, often exceeding the median income level. So, the trades offer many different ways to take part, and you'll likely be paid well for your efforts!

How many students will choose this new apprenticeship pathway?

This is the big question! How many students will want to leave high school during grade 11, potentially giving up social time and other extra-curricular activities, in favour of getting a jump-start on their career? This proposal is sure to drawn attention from some students, but how many will take advantage? We'll have to wait to find out!

That said, there's some evidence that the growing focus on skilled trades education is paying off in Ontario: according to the Labour Minister, Ontario saw a 23% jump in apprenticeships in 2022; women and girls' participation rose by 29%!

Clearly, some students are getting the message that the trades can offer great career paths.

Mandatory tech classes in Ontario high schools

On top of the new option for grade 11s, starting in the fall of 2024, all Ontario high school students will need to take at least one class focusing on technology. This applies whether you're interested in pursuing a skilled trade or not!

In grade 9 or 10, students will need at least one credit in one of the following areas:

  • communications technology
  • computer technology
  • construction technology
  • green industries
  • hairstyling and esthetics
  • health care
  • hospitality and tourism
  • manufacturing technology
  • technological design
  • transportation technology

Some of these are quite broad, so you're sure to find an appealing course in there somewhere. Currently, most students graduate with at least one tech credit anyway, so the new, mandatory credit will only directly impact about 25% of high school grads.

There are two main issues:

  • Not enough time in schedules. For many students, especially those pursuing French Immersion or International Baccalaureate (IB) degrees, schedules are already pretty full. Students may have to forego a course they want to take so that they qualify for one of these mandatory credits.
  • Not enough teachers to teach these courses. Ontario's already facing a shortfall of tech and trades teachers, so who will cover the influx of students who all need a specific course to graduate? The specifics of the implementation are unclear so far.

Still, if courses like these help remove some of the stigma around the skilled trades, especially for women and girls, who make up only about a third of the workforce in many of these areas, that would be a net positive.

How exactly these new provincial policies will be rolled out is still uncertain. The Ontario provincial government has made a lot of promises and announcements, and now needs to focus on bringing these programs to life in a way that benefits Ontario high school students.

For now, cautious optimism is the word of the day! We need talented, engaged students to help build Canada's future. Will you be one of them?

Learn about Red Seal trades in Canada

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