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

By Logan Bright Modified on May 04, 2024
Tags : Careers | News | Skilled Trades | STEM | Tech

Starting in September 2025, 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 more and more. 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!

To encourage students to explore their options in the trades, the Ontario government has created the Focused Apprenticeship Skills Training (FAST) program, a new stream of their Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP), where students in grades 11 and 12 can spend 80% of their time in co-op courses and 20% of their time in class.

New apprenticeship options for grade 11 and 12 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.

Instead of waiting until college to explore your career options in the trades, you could earn credits from trades training through full-time co-op placements while in grades 11 and 12! Don’t worry, you won’t have to find these apprenticeship positions all by yourself. The Ontario government is creating an online job-matching portal to help students find placements. You’ll still be required to earn the mandatory grade 11 math and English credits, as well as the grade 12 English credit.

Starting in September 2025, grade 11 and 12 students participating in the FAST program will be able to get apprenticeship training in 144 different trades and graduate with a high school diploma that is marked with a seal of distinction to recognize the completion of the program and their dedication to learning skilled trades.

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 FAST program, 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.

If a career in the trades is something you’re seriously considering, then the new FAST program may be for you! 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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