Ontario schools have programs that help students explore a wide range of careers, with an emphasis on the skilled trades.

The skilled trades offer students a variety of rewarding and lucrative career opportunities. With specialty training, hands-on work and jobs in high-demand, skilled trades give students a wide range of secure, high-paying and satisfying careers.

By 2026, one in six job openings are projected to be in the skilled trades.

With an aging workforce, employers are looking for skilled tradespeople who can help build and maintain our province and provide essential services.

Careers in the skilled trades

There are more than 140 skilled trades in Ontario. They fall under four sectors: construction, industrial, transportation and service.

There are a range of career opportunities, such as:

  • automotive service technician
  • carpenter
  • cook
  • crane operator
  • developmental services worker
  • electrician
  • elevating device mechanic
  • hairstylist
  • heavy equipment operation
  • horticulture technician
  • industrial mechanic millwright
  • plumber
  • refrigeration and air conditioning systems mechanic
  • sheet metal worker
  • steamfitter
  • welder

Job skills programs in secondary schools

High schools across Ontario offer job skills programs to help young people recognize skilled trades and apprenticeships as a career of choice.

Specialist High Skills Majors (SHSM)

This innovative program lets high school students in Grades 11 and 12 focus on a career path that matches their skills and interests while earning their Ontario Secondary School Diploma.

Students can:

  • concentrate their learning around a particular sector
  • gain important skills on the job with actual employers, at skills training centres and at school
  • earn industry certifications

Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) programs are available in 19 sectors including:

See the SHSM programs available at your local high school and school board and talk to your school’s guidance or cooperative education department, or the SHSM coordinator at your school board.

Dual credit programs

Dual credit programs allow students in secondary school to take college or apprenticeship courses that count towards their Ontario Secondary School Diploma and a postsecondary certificate, diploma, degree or a Certificate of Apprenticeship. Dual credit programs can help students move from high school to college and apprenticeship programs.

Students can:

  • earn high school credits while studying at a publicly funded college or taking apprenticeship training
  • gain experience to transition to postsecondary education or apprenticeship
  • get a head start on learning and training for their future careers
  • Search for dual credit programs at your local publicly funded college and talk to the high school guidance counsellor to see if dual credit programs are offered at the school.

Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP)

This school-to-work program lets students explore and work in apprenticeships starting in Grade 11 or Grade 12 through cooperative education. Students can become registered apprentices and work towards becoming certified in a skilled trade, while completing their secondary school diplomas.

Contact the OYAP coordinator at your school board or the cooperative education or guidance department at your local high school to find out more.

Cooperative (co-op) education

Cooperative education allows high school students to earn credits while completing a work placement in the community along with classroom learning or online learning activities. Co-op work placements are arranged for students by their high school and must follow Ministry of Education policy and guidelines.

Students participating in co-op are assigned to a cooperative education teacher.

The co-op teacher ensures that students:

  • learn in safe, culturally responsive environments in the community
  • are actively involved in determining all aspects of their own learning
  • help decide how they demonstrate their learning

Benefits of co-op education

Students can apply two co-op credits towards their compulsory high school graduation requirements, with no limit on earning optional co-op credits.

Co-ops allow students to:

  • experience hands-on learning
  • test-drive career options
  • see the relevance of their classroom learning
  • earn credits through workplace experience
  • develop skills and habits required in the workplace
  • build a resumé for their postsecondary plans and future employment

All Ontario school boards with high schools offer co-op programs. Contact your cooperative education or guidance department, or your school principal for more information.

Learning about skilled trades in school

We are increasing skilled trades awareness and exposure in schools so there are more opportunities for students to develop interests and skills that can lead to careers in the skilled trades.

Education and career planning

Education and career/life planning helps students from kindergarten to Grade 12 develop the knowledge and skills they need to make informed choices for their education, career and life outside school. Learn about the education and career/life planning process.

The updated Grade 10 career studies course has an enhanced focus on education planning and career pathways that lead to the skilled trades. It also takes a deeper look at careers in high-growth industries such as STEM disciplines.

Experiential learning

Hands-on, real world learning, also known as experiential learning, can offer students across all grades the chance to learn beyond the classroom and explore different career options, while building their skills to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow.

Experiential learning opportunities can include:

  • career fairs
  • classroom visits/career talks from skilled tradespeople
  • cooperative education
  • job shadowing
  • one on one career mentorship
  • project-based learning
  • workplace tours

Leaders of experiential learning (LELs) work closely with industry partners and the community to create experiential learning opportunities and job skills programs. LELs:

  • lead activities at the school board level
  • have an increasing focus on the skilled trades, technological education and apprenticeship

Working with partners

Ontario works with school boards and their partners to deliver science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and skilled trades experiential learning opportunities in elementary and high schools. Examples include:

FIRST Robotics Canada

FIRST Robotics Canada is a registered charity with a mission to inspire students to pursue further studies and careers in science, technology and engineering.

Students can build robots and take part in tournaments with competitions, judged awards and other forms of recognition, potentially including university and college scholarships.

Competitions start as early as elementary school and continue through high school. Learn more about the competitions.

FIRST Robotics also works to support integrating more girls and young women into STEM courses and careers.

Skills Ontario

Skills Ontario provides a broad range of programming and skills competitions designed to encourage students to explore, consider and prepare for careers in the skilled trades and technologies, and connect students with employers from skilled trades industries.

Programming options include:

  • career awareness workshops
  • Far North trades and tech days
  • in-school presentations
  • summer camp

Skills Ontario also has events and programs for:

Additional information