That's the direct benefit of the Dual Credit Attestation agreement announced Thursday between the public board and St. Clair College that will allow GECDSB students to get credit for the first year of their college training.
The apprenticeship agreement is the only one of its kind in Ontario. "I'm happy I won't have to go for an extra (third) year," said India Lokun, a Grade 11 student in Belle River's precision metal apprenticeship program currently on placement at Concours Mold Inc.
"It's going to give me an opportunity to get ahead quicker because everyone else will still be in school." Lokun added the shorter path to certification will also help make the OYAP program more attractive to students. It also means employers starving for such talent will get help sooner.
"The Greater Essex County District School Board has a model program," said Robert Chittim, chair of the college's School of Skilled Trades.
"The training and paid placements are unique in the province. This model should be put in place across Ontario." After doing a thorough investigation of the board's OYAP program for precision metal cutting, studying everything from facilities to the quality of instructors, Chittim felt comfortable recommending to the Ministry of Trades, Colleges and Universities that the two-year high school program was the equivalent of having completed Level 1 of their apprenticeship at St. Clair.
"The immediate impact for us is we're going to see a rise in the apprenticeship program," Chittim said. "We're starting to see rising numbers in OYAP at the board already. Companies are coming to me everyday looking for people.
"The people standing before me today (OYAP apprentices) are the solution to a problem." To put the benefits of the program in more measurable terms, Chittim said many of the apprentices will making the equivalent of the starting salaries of those teaching them.
"Some of these apprentices (on paid placements) are making $35,000 to $45,000 if their working overtime," Chittim said.
"When they return to school to complete the last semester of Grade 12 with the new truck they've bought, there's a lot of interest in the program then."
The first class of apprentices eligible for immediate standing in Level 2 of their apprenticeship at the college will graduate high school in June, 2016.
To be eligible an apprentice must have complete the two-year OYAP high-school program at one of the board's four sites, be a registered apprentice and member of the Ontario College of Trades.
Students must also have maintained at least a 60 per cent average in their math, manufacturing technology and co-op education courses (six credits).
There's also an exemption exam that can be written to gain advance standing.
Dan Fister, the GECDSB's superintendent of education overseeing OYAP, credits private industry for being willing to partner with the board to help create the program by opening their doors and their wallets. It's a model he said the board wants to expand into other apprenticeships.
"It'll help us sell the benefits of career in skilled trades and apprenticeships," Fister said. "We believe in learn to earn. Students are getting relevant, real-life experiences.
"We want to create that interest and excitement because that creates student engagement."