A New Skill Opportunities Showcase (SOS) was launched on Friday, December 6th at Ripley-Huron Community School where Grades 7 and 8 students got a first hands-on exposure to the skilled trades and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
The SOS Trailer introduced by Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is the first of its kind in Ontario to showcase various skilled trades opportunities ranging from automotive to heavy equipment operation, hair styling to carpentry, welding to culinary, masonry to electrical wiring in addition to STEP learning tools and dexterity challenges.
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Dave Barrett, Coordinator/Facilitator for the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) explained that the SOS Trailer brings hands-on activities from every sector to students in Grade 7 and 8 who are trying to decided on high-school courses. “We want to give the students an interactive experience so that they can be exposed to STEM programs or Specialist High Skills major, try a co-op placement and potentially become an apprentice in a few short years.” Barrett demonstrated the Roeder Manipulative Dexterity Aptitude Test. “This is a test used by many large companies such as car manufacturers to measure hand, arm and finger dexterity and speed for sorting and assembly.”
The mobile learning lab originated in 2009 when the Four County Labour Market Planning Board launched a similar initiative. “The updated version of the trailer and collaboration with school board and local partners provides opportunities that enrich the education experiences for youth as they explore careers that are in demand,” says Gemma Mendez-Smith, Executive Director of the Four County Labour Market Planning Board.
Nancy Anderson of OYAP also pointed out that the hands-on experience helps student determine what skills they may be good at and thereby building confidence.
The SOS Trailer will be visiting schools across the Bluewater District School Board (BWDSB) and the Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board reaching more than 20,000 students in the more than 50 elementary schools and 11 secondary schools.
The initiative was funded in collaboration by the Township of Huron-Kinloss, the Municipality of Southampton ($12,500 each) and NWMO ($50,000) through its Early Investment in Education and Skills (EIES) program. The Trailer itself was purchased by the Four County Labour Market Planning Board.
According to Becky Smith, NWMO Regional Communications Manager, the NWMO is always looking for opportunities to promote skilled trades and STEM education. “Partnership is at he core of what we do and we are thrilled to be participating with local school board, OYAP, Huron-Kinloss and South Bruce and the Four County Labour Market Planning Board.”
“The SOS Trailer will be an amazing asset in our local communities through its unique experiential learning opportunities,” says Alana Murray, BWDSB Director of Education.
Director of Education at the Bruce-Grey Catholic School Board, Gary O’Connell, added that “This skilled trades and STEM hands-on learning is a real opportunity for the youth of Bruce and Grey counties.”