Rainy River District School Board offers a wide variety of programs

If you are unsure of what path to take to better prepare you for a career, the Rainy River District School Board offers a variety of programs to students in order to help them make informed decisions about their futures.

The Pathways Planning stream gives students the chance to get a co-op placement, earn dual credits to count towards both high school and college, enrol in an apprenticeship program or opt to be enrolled in a specialist high skills major.

These programs are geared towards students’ interests, with the possibility of having the course credits transfer over to a college transcript or getting employment straight out of high school.

RobRoy Donaldson is the experiential learning lead and the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) coordinator for the Rainy River District School Board.

Donaldson’s job is to ensure that students get authentic experiences as part of their learning, and experiences that help them make informed decisions about their future. It is learning that is connected to the communities around them, whether it is a local, regional or global community.

While experiential learning works on promoting all trades, the OYAP specializes in promoting skilled trades.

“The exciting thing is to take students who discover an interest or passion that they did not know they had by having been given the opportunity to go through an experiential learning process,” Donaldson said. “This allows them to discover a passion or interest that they didn’t know they had. This could possibly lead to a rewarding career down the road.”

The OYAP program entails working with the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skill Development to promote the apprenticeship and skilled trades pathway for students.

“It’s learning a skilled trade on the job,” Donaldson said. “We provide experiences for students to try out an apprenticeship in high school.”

The apprenticeship program allows co-op students to gain work experience as part of their high school diploma. During the school day, instead of going to a traditional classroom, they go to a workplace where an employer has agreed to take them on the job. They earn high school credit that way.

The co-operative education program is ministry-approved. It allows students to earn credits while completing a work placement. It includes healthcare, office work and accounting.

The apprenticeship program is geared towards students learning a skilled trade while they are completing their high school diploma.

“It’s an education that can teach them to be adaptable, to learn and to recognize the opportunity when it comes and how to take it,” Donaldson said. “The goal is to help them find something that makes them feel that they are contributing to the world. If we can do that, we’ll be in good shape for the future.”

For example, they work at an automotive shop with a mentor there. They can register with the ministry of labour as a youth apprentice.

“It’s a chance for the employer to try out a student and for the students to try out a job. It’s an investment.”

Donaldson said that it once ended up that a student signed a formal apprenticeship agreement before they left high school.

There are also other programs students have benefitted from, such as the Dual Credit program where students get college experience and credits during high school.

We have a few courses starting in grade 11 and 12, that are actually co-taught,” Donaldson said. “It’s an agreement with Confederation College. It’s co-taught with a high school teacher and a college instructor. It’s where a high school course and the college course overlap, because a lot of them do. If students pass, they’re actually taking a college course at the same time.”

Another stream is the Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) at the Fort Frances High School. This includes three programs. Health and wellness is for students who are interested in going into nursing, counselling, child development or kinesiology. The second is manufacturing where students get extra training to weld and manufacture things out of metal and wood. They also have business for students that are going through the entrepreneurial route.

Donaldson said the advantage of the apprenticeship program is that it gives students the opportunity to try different jobs while they are still living at home.

“Now would be the time to take that risk while you have other adults that you’re living with that look after you and support you,” Donaldson said. “You’re not trying to make a living on your own right now. You’re in school, you also have your teachers and your guidance counsellors who are there to support you.”

Donaldson added that high school would be the time to try out different jobs to see if it’s right for you before you’re out of high school, and then you’re a little bit more on your own.

“Keep your options open,” Donaldson said. “Keep your eyes open for opportunities that might be in disguise. Be ready to take them and be ready to find out where they lead you.”