Pathways Planning and Supports

The York Region District School Board offers a variety of programs and opportunities that honours all pathways, including apprenticeship, college, university and the workplace. YRDSB is committed to providing inclusive, innovative and authentic learning experiences for all students. Our Student Success and Pathways programs and opportunities provide students the space, time and opportunities to engage in authentic experiential learning to acquire, refine and apply acquired competencies, make clear connections to their subject curriculum, explore a variety of post-secondary destinations and career pathways and successfully transition to their post-secondary destination.

The Director’s Action Plan highlights ‘Championing Equity and Inclusivity’ with the goal of building understanding of anti-oppression, culturally relevant and responsive pedagogy and the ongoing impact of colonialism. Striving for equity and inclusivity requires that we work to meet individual needs, identify and eliminate barriers to success and promote a sense of belonging in all of our students. We strive to provide learning that is experiential, reflective and connected to the communities from which students come and the world they will shape.

Students are invited to explore their options, build their pathway and design their future through the following programs and opportunities.


Cooperative Education Program (Co-op)

This program benefits students in all pathways: apprenticeship, college, university or the workplace. Co-op students learn, gain work experience and earn credits in an industry related to their career choice or Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) Sector. Through co-op, students can develop knowledge, skills and attitudes through hands-on experiences; explore their interests and career opportunities; learn more about different pathways to help them make informed education and career decisions; develop maturity and self-confidence; make valuable connections and build a network; complete the program requirements of the Specialist High Skills Major; and participate in specialized co-op programs.

YRDSB delivered 8,211 co-op credits in 2022-23. This is a 39% increase from co-op credits delivered in 2021-2022. Students can also earn co-op credits through the Alternative Learning Experiential Program (ALEP). In 2022-23, YRDSB delivered 1,121 Co-op credits through ALEP. 


Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP)

A co-op student becomes an OYAP student when they pursue a co-op placement in a skilled trade. Through OYAP, students can take the first step towards a career path in the trades, receive training that leads to a registered apprenticeship program, earn apprenticeship hours, begin completing skills listed in the Apprenticeship Training Standard Log Book and earn secondary school credits at the same time.  

  • OYAP Group Signings: OYAP students who are interested in pursuing an apprenticeship resulting from their co-op experience, are invited once each semester to become registered apprentices with the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. In 2022-2023, 87 YRDSB students became registered apprentices in a variety of skilled trades.

  • Accelerated OYAP:In 2022-2023, 52 OYAP students were registered as Apprentices  in the “Accelerated OYAP Program.” The Accelerated OYAP Level 1 students attempted 83 Dual credits with a 82% success rate in the 11 programs that ran.  These OYAP students pursued a Level 1 Training at a GTA College or Training Delivery Agent in one of the following trades: Auto Body Repairer, Auto Service Technician, Baker, Cook, Construction Craft Worker, Electrician, General Carpenter, Hairstyling, Plumber, Residential Air Conditioning, and Truck and Coach Technician. 


Exploring Opportunities Program (EOP) 

In 2022-23, six YRDSB high schools offered specialized regional programs that allowed students to focus on developing a high skill level in a particular technology (i.e. transportation; manufacturing; construction; entrepreneurship). Students participate in industry approved certification, reach ahead opportunities, guest speaker sessions, industry shows and conferences and authentic experiential learning in the classroom and in the community. The six high schools include Sutton District High School, Huron Heights Secondary School, Richmond Green Secondary School, Alexander Mackenzie High School, Markham District High School and Markville Secondary School. 


Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM)

The SHSM program allows students to focus their learning on a sector of interest. Students earn sector-recognized certifications, gain valuable skills and experience and discover new career pathways through the various SHSM experiences. In 2022-2023, all 33 YRDSB secondary schools offered an average of three SHSM sectors each for a total of 112 programs in 14 different sectors. YRDSB had 2,763 Grade 11 and 12 students registered in the program for the 2022-23 school year. The board completion rate for students graduating with the SHSM Red Seal Diploma last year is in line with the provincial rate.


Dual Credit

Through the Dual Credit program, Grade 11 and 12 students have the opportunity to experience the college pathway and earn college credits while still in secondary school. This program is a partnership with local colleges and is available at all YRDSB secondary schools. Every secondary school in the region had participants in the dual credit program in the 2022-23 school year. 

Through dual credits, students can take one course on a college campus and earn a high school credit and a college credit at the same; take college-level courses to enhance skills and explore their interests; access free college tuition, free textbooks and subsidized transportation; and receive support with the transition to college.

In 2022-23, these credits were all delivered online and there were a total of 425 college delivered dual credits with a 84% completion rate. In addition, there were 48 adult dual credits with a 72% completion rate and 27 summer dual credits with a 100% completion rate. 


School Within a College (SWAC)  

The School Within A College (SWAC) program provides students that are credit deficient and early leavers the opportunity to complete their last semester of high school at one of the GTA College Partner sites. SWAC provides students that were formerly disengaged, underperforming and underserved with a college environment, SWAC Teacher, and wrap-around support from both the college and YRDSB to achieve academic success.

The SWAC program enables students to earn 4+ credits towards their Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) in one semester; for instance, 1-2 credits in Cooperative Education, 1-2 credits at the senior high school level with direct YRDSB teacher instruction, 2 dual credits (College Credits), and possible credit(s) from credit recovery. In addition to earning secondary OSSD credits, students benefit from exposure to transition support. 

Currently, YRDSB’s SWAC program is run in partnership with Seneca College. Based on a student survey, 100% of students recommended the programs to other students. In addition, 91% of respondents indicated that they would have not been able to complete their OSSD without SWAC.

In 2022-2023, 125 Secondary School Credits were earned (not including Dual Credits) and 35 out of 36 students graduated with their OSSD by the end of the semester 2. 

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics)

The goal of the K-12 STEM continuum is to offer inclusive learning opportunities for students in all divisions to engage in authentic real world problem solving that integrates Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics through skill development in the design thinking process. STEM programming aims to improve outcomes for students across the system by focusing on instructional strategies that centre student voice and choice through community connected experiential learning. 

In the 2022-2023 school year, 50 classes and over 1,200+ students participated in Computer Science Education Week and Hour of Code events with 45 educators engaging in a coding and engineering design professional learning certificate program. In partnership with Laurier University, the Canadian Space Agency and Inksmith, 10 secondary and 20 elementary schools piloted the Mission on the Moon project - a lunar-themed coding and robotics program for students in Grades 6-9. Over 200+ educators and students K-Grade 6 participated in the Little Inventors Challenge with students designing and prototyping unique solutions to real-world problems with over 300+ unique innovative student submissions. The Elementary LEGO Robotics Competition relaunched this year with 60+ schools sending 120+ teams of students to compete in seven unique robotic missions. 

The 2022-2023 school year also included the implementation of the new Grade 1-8 science & technology curriculum and the new Grade 9 de-streamed science curriculum. Over 120+ primary, junior and intermediate educators participated in professional learning sessions to support the implementation of the new elementary curriculum. Additionally, 130+ teacher librarians participated in makerspace tours to explore ways to leverage the elementary learning commons to support curriculum connected STEM learning. A network was created to support Grade 9 de-streaming science educators which included three full days of professional learning for all 30 secondary schools to implement the new Grade 9 science curriculum. In partnership with Lassonde School of Engineering’s K2i academy, 10 secondary schools were provided training and equipment to implement the ‘Bringing STEM to Life’ pilot project sponsored by the Ministry of Education. In addition, the Board’s Curriculum and Instructional Services STEM team was able to provide school support visits for 47 schools and over 330 educators to engage in local implementation of the new curriculum. 


Technological Education

The purpose of the technological education program is to provide students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes that will enhance their ability to achieve success in secondary school, the workplace, post-secondary education or training and daily life. These courses focus on developing a creative and flexible approach to problem solving that will help students address challenges in various areas throughout their lives; develop skills such as critical thinking and research skills; conduct inquiries; communicate findings accurately, ethically and effectively; and achieve a level of technological competence students will need to succeed. 

In 2022 - 2023, all YRDSB secondary schools offered a variety of Broad Based Technology courses including Construction Technology, Green Industries, Hair Styling and Aesthetics, Hospitality and Tourism, Manufacturing Technology, Computer Technology, and Transportation Technology.


Experiential learning

Experiential Learning (EL) is an opportunity for students to engage in hands-on, real-world learning that helps them develop their understanding of the curriculum and prepare for the jobs of today and tomorrow.  EL engages students as active participants in the three elements of the Experiential Learning Cycle where they: 

  • participate in learning experiences connected to a community or economic sector; 

  • reflect on those experiences to derive meaning; and then 

  • apply their learning to influence their decisions and actions in various aspects of their lives, including education and career/life plans. 

Learning experiences involve local, national and global community or economic sector partners and can be on-site, virtual or blended (a combination of on-site and virtual).

  • Community Connected Experiential Learning (CCEL) projects: build collaborative relationships with community partners that focus on supporting experiential learning projects that are connected to student interests and curriculum. CCEL school/classroom based projects provide students with opportunities to co-plan and co-construct inquiry-based learning projects that reflect student needs and interests. The Ministry of Education mandates that CCEL initiatives focus on skilled trades and technology. CCEL funds help to build teacher capacity in developing and implementing rich experiential learning opportunities that are community connected, based on student voice, rooted in Culturally Responsive and Relevant Pedagogy and modern learning practices.  A variety of community-connected projects across both the elementary and secondary panels are supported.

  • Community Connected Experiential Learning Grants (CCEL):  Seven elementary and twelve secondary schools received CCEL grants supporting equitable inquiry learning tied to the community to promote skills and knowledge for the skilled trades, STEM, technology or the development of global competencies. Students were provided with opportunities to engage in real world problem solving and skill development through the support of community partners including the Richmond Hill Public Library, the Markham Museum, Goodlife Fitness, York University, Seneca College, George Brown College, Steamline Aquaponics, Clipware Games, Holland Landing Public Library, ALPHA Education, Georgina Trade and Technology Institute, local gardening centres and Black and Indigenous guest artists.

  • YRDSB Little Inventors Challenge: 200 educators registered to participate in the YRDSB Little Inventors Challenge.  Forty-five Kindergarten-Grade 6 classrooms submitted unique problem-based learning challenges solving local and global issues. Three hundred students participated in STEM Challenge card activities to increase capacity to demonstrate multiple ways of knowing and learning. YRDSB’s STEM Challenge cards had over 12,000+ views on X (formerly known as Twitter).  YRDSB educators and students had an opportunity to share their learning at the YRDSB Little Inventors Showcase.

  • Image Activism Initiative: forty-five Kindergarten-Grade 6 classrooms participated in the Image Activism project. Students learned about how books are reflective of diverse social identities and how they can identify and produce image activism. Educators and students were provided learning material including video content and digital resources to support classroom implementation. Educators had the opportunity for support through drop in sessions, a Google Chat community and a live Q and A and feedback session.

  • Young Entrepreneurship Pilot Project: 172 students in Grades 9-12 participated in the young entrepreneurship opportunities focused on supporting students in the development of specific skills related to planning, funding, starting and running a business or social enterprise (e.g., negotiation, risk assessment, networking, interpersonal skills, money management, leadership and sales). Students demonstrated their learning by participating in in-school pitches with community partners, attending mentorship meetings with local entrepreneurs and launching their businesses at the Markham Village Music Festival. Over 32 community partners participated in this program and supported student mentorship. Nine students had a unique opportunity to participate in a co-op placement at Apple where students developed apps and pitched their ideas at a provincial showcase event.


School College Work Initiative (SCWI) Activities 

This program supports Grades 7-12 students who participate in a one day experiential learning activity at one of the GTA colleges showcasing the various Skilled Trades and Technology based careers. In 2022-23, all events were in-person and included Promoting Skilled Trades and Technology (PSTT), Financial Literacy workshops, Pathways to Mentorship, Faculty of Communication, Art and Design in collaboration with local GTA Colleges. Students were provided with opportunities to virtually visit a variety of colleges to raise their awareness of programming available to them, particularly with respect to the trades, promotion of women in the trades, support for students with an identification and having the opportunity to engage in hands-on activities. 


York Region Skills Challenges (YRSC)  

YRSC provides additional pathways opportunities for students and teachers that promote authentic experiential learning activities and builds skills and competencies. York Region skills events are specifically designed for students in Grades 4-12 to participate in a variety of competitions (i.e. robotics; hairstyling; construction; 2D/3D animations; design etc.) and demonstrate their knowledge and skills in technological education, digital literacy, problem solving, mathematical and critical thinking skills.  

YRSC was held at Humber College North campus with 16 elementary and secondary competitions. There were 386 elementary students and 143 secondary students who participated in the competitions in addition to 100 teachers, coaches, judges and curriculum staff who supported the competitions. The winners from YRSC represented YRDSB at Skills Ontario in May. In addition, YRDSB successfully ran one virtual VEX-VR robotics competition in April 2023. There were 27 schools and 530 students, including students from our virtual school, in Grades 4-8 who participated in a virtual robotics competition. A multi-year plan has been created with goals to expand and explore robotics and to provide students with more opportunities to engage with coding and robotics.


Skills Ontario/Canada Competitions 

Schools participate in a variety of experiential learning opportunities, competitions and workshops available through Skills Ontario. Classroom teachers can also access Skilled Trades Presentations for elementary (Grades 7-8) and secondary schools. Schools participate in a variety of experiential learning opportunities, competitions, workshops (i.e. FNMI apprenticeship presentation) and networking opportunities. Events take place throughout the entire year in collaboration with a variety of college and trade school partners. 

The largest event is the Skills Ontario Competitions in May which also hosts the FNMI Workshop and Conference, Young Women’s Conference and a variety of hands-on workshops.  There were 92 elementary and 64 secondary students who represented YRDSB at the virtual Skills Ontario Competitions in May 2023.  Four students won medals and one moved to the Skills National Competition in Winnipeg, and received a silver medal at the Nationals.   


Elementary to Secondary and Secondary to Post-Secondary

Students are supported in successfully transitioning from elementary to secondary and from secondary to their initial post-secondary destination.

Elementary to Secondary:

  • Funding (release time) to support transitions meetings between elementary and secondary teachers 

  • Providing information and resources through email and web resources to educators to support Grade 8 students as they plan for their transition to secondary and beyond

  • Grade 8 Open Houses and Information Nights for families 

  • Revisions were made to Transition Learner Portraits, shifting to an asset based model and including family and student voice

  • Support for course selection including preparing teachers, students and families for the new de-streamed course offerings

  • Promotion of My Pathway Planner (a career exploration and course selection tool)

    • 2021-2022

      • Number of elementary student log-ins in 2021-2022:  259,409

      • Mean number of log-ins per active student account:  14.2

    • 2022-2023

      • Number of elementary student log-ins in 2022-2023:  234,503

      • Mean number of log-ins per active student account:  13.3

    • Current (September - December 2023)

      • Log-ins:  74,443

      • Average:  5.0

Secondary to Post-Secondary:

  • Post-Secondary fairs occurred at various secondary schools

  • Education Career Fairs Career at various secondary schools

  • Indigenous Student Pathways opportunities at colleges in the GTA including Georgian College and Fleming College

  • Funding Pathways Initiative - supporting schools with funding to create opportunities for students to engage in reach-aheads and experiential learning at post-secondary institutions (including apprenticeships)

  • Community Connected Experiential Learning grassroots projects are designed and developed by students with a community partner using a model of inquiry and have a focus on the skilled trades, STEM, technology and/or global competencies. 

  • Online asynchronous certifications and in-person through SHSM: industry sector-recognized certifications to support students in their career pathway choice

  • Online and in-person SHSM Reach-Aheads: virtual tours of industry and post-secondary destinations that are career-pathway specific. These are to support students in their transition planning to their post-secondary education or workplace (including apprenticeship)

  • Accelerated OYAP Level 1 Training with dual credit course opportunities in 11 skilled trades - offered virtually and in-person

  • Fast Track to the Workplace and Apprenticeship: May 25, 2023 - Student conference for graduating students entering the workforce and apprenticeship pathways.

  • Apprenticeship “Registered Training Agreement” Group Signing Events(twice per year) for Grade 12 OYAP students entering a formal agreement with their co-op placement.

  • Dual credit programming offers an opportunity for students in Grades 11 and 12 to earn an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) as well as college credits and to make a successful transition to college  

  • School Within A College (SWAC) program supports early leavers to return to high school in order to earn their OSSD in a college setting and to complete college as well as high school credits with the support of a secondary school teacher 

  • Promoting Skilled Trades and Technologies opportunities

  • Student Success provided secondary schools with 69 OCAS (Ontario College Application Services) vouchers and 48 OUAC (Ontario University Application Centre) vouchers to cover the cost of applying to an Ontario College/University for students in financial need

  • The Credit Success Program was created to support each student in achieving all of their credits, by reinforcing concepts and demonstrating learning that was not achieved through their day school courses. Particular focus is given to supporting Grade 9 and 10 students, especially those engaged in learning in applied and locally developed classes, and those supported through Special Education.  

  • Credit Recovery is offered at each school and centrally (through summer school) to support students in completing their OSSD requirements.

  • Elementary Transitions Teacher Networking opportunities were offered to both the transitions teacher and other teachers who support Grades 7-8 which focussed on course selection, career exploration, academics pathways, proactive approaches to supporting students in-risk, cross-panel conversations and co-planning between elementary and secondary school teachers, and networking and sharing with other elementary teachers regarding effective instructional practices and opportunities . Approximately 200-250 elementary teachers engaged in this learning and professional development at various times of the school year.


Updated January 2024