Specialist High Skills Major Programs Grow in CDSBEO Secondary Schools
The Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) program lets students focus on a career path that matches their skills and interests while meeting the requirements of the Ontario Secondary School Diploma.
Leon Haughian, SHSM Pathways Consultant, presented a report to the Board regarding SHSM program enrolment, demographics and future expansion. “A SHSM program allows students in grades 11 and 12 to focus their learning on a specific economic sector,” explained Mr. Haughian. “They may obtain special certification (called Red Seal), gain co-operative education credits, sector recognized certifications, participate in experiential learning activities, and develop specialized knowledge and skills.”
The CDSBEO Specialist High Skills Major Program is now in its twelfth year, and offers 24 programs in nine economic sectors. There are currently 510 students enrolled in a SHSM program, with the most popular sectors being Health and Wellness (164), Hospitality and Tourism (121), and Construction (65).
For the 2016-2017 school year, 22 per cent of students in grade 11 and 12 were enrolled in a Specialist High Skills Major; this compares to 13 per cent provincially.
“Our Board does a great job in identifying learners with additional needs, and bringing these students into these programs to help them to graduate and attain their diploma,” noted Mr. Haughian.
Students in the program are able to access many opportunities to learn about career planning and entrepreneurial skills. Teachers support students throughout their program and ensure that they are on track to attain the necessary, and sometimes demanding requirements, particularly with regard to various certifications. In the Board last year, 67 per cent of the students in the SHSM program attained their Red Seal, which is a rigorous certification process. Provincially, this number stands at about 53 per cent.
“New this year, we started the Agriculture Program at Holy Trinity. It is a very exciting program, which teaches students how to grow crops,” noted Mr. Haughian. “We have a very passionate lead teacher there, Michael Smith. There are very few of these programs in Ontario, so we are pleased to be able to offer this unique opportunity to our students.”
Throughout the year, SHSM lead teachers have the opportunity to participate in various learning opportunities, including various in-services, conferences, and Ministry of Education sessions. On March 21, the Board will be hosting a SHSM Lead Teacher/Coop Teacher Professional Development Session. In addition, students from various SHSM programs participate each year, in a myriad of skills competitions including a Culinary Skills Competition, and the Eastern Ontario Skills Competition.
The Construction Program at Notre Dame Catholic High School is now in its eleventh year. In the past the school has participated in building camper cabins for the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, and now Tyler Soares, lead teacher, has developed a new community partnership with Valley Sheds in Carleton Place to create opportunities for the students to learn through hands-on projects.
“Carleton Place is a booming area, and the school was fortunate to have the opportunity to build three sheds for Valley Sheds this year. The sheds have a little less details for the interior finishing than the camper cabins, but the students built three units rather than one,” noted Mr. Soares.
“There was just enough time to complete the project during the semester. It really gives the students a sense of accomplishment seeing the end product, and they also have an opportunity to really develop the skills required to follow their pathway.”
Notre Dame CHS graduate Jesse Hilts completed the SHSM Construction Program as part of his high school diploma. “Doing the Specialist High Skills Major in high school really helped me, and gave me a positive learning experience, and the hands on learning that I needed. I did two coops at different companies, and through that I gained hours toward my apprenticeship.”
“I really had a head start on safety and how to use tools, making it easier to get jobs. The experience also made school at lot more interesting,” he continued.
“I think it’s great that when you visit the school the cabins are in plain view, and the community knows that this amazing learning is taking place at Notre Dame,” noted Trustee Nancy Kirby. “I have also been impressed, in past years, by the number of female students that participate in Construction Technology. That is a testament to the success of the program.”