Pathways Planning and Supports

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.

In 2020-2021, students were invited to explore their options, build their pathway and design their future through a variety of programs and opportunities. Teacher professional learning and support for programming and student participation in pathways opportunities were affected by COVID restrictions during the 2020-2021 school year (numbers below are not indicative of results that would normally be demonstrated under regular operating conditions).

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 developknowledge, 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.

In 2020-2021, YRDSB delivered 6,562 Co-op credits with a 98.4% success rate.

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 and 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, Training and Skills Development.  In 2020-2021, 76 YRDSB students became registered apprentices in a variety of skilled trades.
  • Accelerated OYAP: In 2020-2021, 46 OYAP students registered as  Apprentices and applied to the “Accelerated OYAP Program” compared to 54 students in 2019-2020.   The Accelerated OYAP Level 1 students attempted 80 Dual credits with a 93% success rate in the seven programs that ran. The Accelerated OYAP Level 1 students attempted 68 Dual credits with a 93% success rate in the 7 programs that ran. These OYAP students pursued a Level 1 Training at a GTA College or at the College of Carpenters in one of the following trades: Auto Service Technician, Cook, Electrician, General Carpenter, Plumber, Residential Air Conditioning, and Truck and Coach Technician.  During the summer of 2021, a summer pilot Accelerated OYAP program ran in partnership with Humber College for the Electrical and Plumbing programs for 6 students, as a result, 12 Dual Credits were earned with an overall success rate of 92%.
  • Exploring the Culinary Trade with Chef Sean Adler and Humber College: This reach ahead opportunity brought 18 Indigenous students together for a morning of virtual learning. Students received the First Nation, Metis and Inuit focused presentation, What’s Out There in the Skilled Trades and Technologies?, from Skills Ontario followed by an engaging cooking demonstration from Indigenous chef, Sean Adler. The morning culminated with a welcome by Humber College Indigenous leaders, a virtual presentation on the Cook and Bake programs, and a virtual tour of the cooking and baking lab facilities.
  • Indigenous Urban Youth Summit, May 26, 2021: Twenty-six YRDSB Indigenous students (Grades 6-12) participated in a full day of virtual learning about opportunities in the skilled trades and technology pathways. They were led by Indigenous leaders in a morning of learning and celebrating Indigenous ways of knowing and practices. In the afternoon session, these students participated in rotating networking sessions where they learned about pathways to opportunities in the skilled trades. 
  • Women in Trades: VirtualCareer Discovery Expo, May 21, 2021: This evening opportunity was extended to students and their parents/guardians in Grades 7-12.   Career women from various industries shared their stories about a career in the skilled trades and technologies. This evening helped 438 students explore our rapidly changing, technologically driven and interconnected world and provided them with information to make an informed decision on their post-secondary destination, notwithstanding  the Apprenticeship first choice pathway. 
  • AutoConnect: Opportunities for Black Youth: Racialized YRDSB students participated in theAutoConnect: Opportunities for Black Youth in April 2021. A total of 41 (students and families) out of 150 registrants attended this province wide, multiboard event. Students heard from professionals on the varied pathway opportunities in the automotive industry and the scholarship opportunities available for racialized youth. 

Exploring Opportunities Program (EOP) 

YRDSB had four high schools offering specialized regional programs that allow students to focus on developing a high skill level in a particular technology (i.e. transportation; 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.  

Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM)

The SHSM program allows students to focus their learning on a sector of interest. Students can also earn sector-recognized certifications, gain valuable skills and experience, and discover new career pathways through the various SHSM programs.   

In 2020-2021, all 33 secondary schools offered an average of three SHSM sectors each for a total of 105 programs. YRDSB had 3,101 Grade 11 and 12 students registered in the program. This represents 15% of our eligible secondary students. Our board completion rate last year was 57%. YRDSB’s SHSM completion rate was significantly impacted by students' lack of participation in co-operative education which is a mandatory requirement for all SHSM students.

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 20120-2021 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 2020-2021, these credits were all delivered online and there were a total of 495 college delivered dual credits with a 79% completion rate. In addition, we had 33 adult dual credits with a 68% completion rate and 35 summer dual credits with a 77% completion rate.  

School Within a College (SWAC)

The School Within A College (SWAC) program provides students from the Early Leavers list the opportunity to complete their last semester of high school at one of the GTA College Partner sites. SWAC provides students who 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 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, the SWAC program is run in partnership with Seneca College. Classes were in a temporary YRDSB location at the Community Education Centre - North due to the college closure. Based on a student survey, 100% of students recommended the program to other students. In addition, 91% of respondents indicated that they would have not been able to complete their OSSD without SWAC.

In 2020-2021, 120 Secondary School Credits were earned (not including Dual Credits) and 28 out of 31 students graduated with their OSSD by the end of 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 center student voice and choice through community connected experiential learning. Each of these unique experiential learning opportunities focuses on amplifying diverse voices so that all students can see themselves represented in the field of STEM.

In the 2020-2021 school year, over 4,600 Kindergarten to Grade 12 students participated in unique interdisciplinary STEM programming opportunities involving authentic problem solving in collaboration with school/community partnerships. Supportive community partnerships were formed with STEM organizations that affirm and celebrate black excellence and indigenous voices. In addition, over 500 educators had the opportunity to explore the integration of challenge-based cross-curriculum tasks and explore the integration of the engineering design process through STEM professional development sessions. Through these professional development opportunities educators were provided support in selecting and implementing STEM resources that are culturally relevant and reflective of diverse voices. 

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, including 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. 

All YRDSB secondary schools offer a range of technological education programs. In the 2020 - 2021 school year, the number of students participating increased to 16,261 students. This represents approximately 39% of all secondary students engaged in a tech course. However, when looking at technological education courses that lead directly into trades focused areas like construction, transportation or hair styling, the engagement footprint falls to approximately 15%.  

Further examination of the enrolment data reveals that 3,922 students registered in a Technological education class, which represents approximately 24% of the enrolled students. Excluding students identified as “gifted”, that footprint falls to 3,440 students which is 21% of students taking a technological education course have a formal identification. When looking at the trades specific programs, the student enrolment in tech excluding “gifted” is 1,894, which represents 30.5% of the students registered in these courses. 

In summary enrolment in technological education programs is higher, however the majority of students taking technological education classes are not enrolled in trades focused areas. In addition the technological education subjects focused on the trades (Construction, Green Industries, Hairstyling and Aesthetics, Hospitality and Tourism, Manufacturing, Transportation) have a higher percentage of students who have an IEP then other subject areas.

Experiential Learning (EL)

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 is supported.
  • Community Connected Experiential Learning (CCEL) Grants:  Four elementary and five 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 York University, Home Hardware, Stouffville City Council, local gardening centers, and Indigenous artists. Three projects were completed as per the application, two projects were placed on pause due to school closures and the inability to access resources, four projects were adapted to remote learning. 
  • YRDSB Little Inventors: 271 Grades K-6 classrooms participated in problem-based learning challenges solving local and global issues. Students participated in virtual workshops on sketchnoting to increase capacity to demonstrate multiple ways of knowing and learning. A panel of five experts responded to eight student prototypes during a live panel discussion to increase student understanding of real world problem solving and prototyping. Due to school closures, the program was adapted to online learning. 
  • Problem Based Learning initiative: 89 educators across both panels developed capacity for the inquiry process of problem based learning and 1,958 students developed the capacity to solve real world problems through understanding ‘wicked’ problems, empathy building, and prototyping. 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 Google Classroom.

School College Work Initiative (SCWI) Activities

This program supports students, in Grades 7-12, to participate in a one day experiential learning activity at one of the GTA colleges showcasing the various Skilled Trades and Technology based careers. 

In 2020-2021, all events were virtual 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 Grades 4-12 students in 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.  

The board competitions were cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions, however we successfully ran one virtual VEX-VR robotics competition in April 2021.  Twenty-one schools and 530 Grades 4-5 students, including students from our virtual school, 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 (including a variety of new virtual opportunities) and workshops available through Skills Ontario. Classroom teachers can also access Skilled Trades Presentations for elementary (Grades 7-8) and secondary schools virtually. 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.  Sixty-six elementary and 29 secondary students represented YRDSB at the virtual Skills Ontario Competitions in May 2021. Six students won medals and moved on to the Skills National Competition, one of whom received a bronze medal at the Nationals.   


Support for Transitioning from Elementary to Secondary and from Secondary to Initial Post-Secondary Destination


Elementary to Secondary

  • Funding (release time) to support transitions meetings between elementary and secondary teachers 
  • Providing information and resources  to educators through email and web resources to support Grade 8 students as they plan for their transition to secondary and beyond
  • Grade 8 Open Houses and Information Nights for families (virtual sessions)
  • Revising Transition Learner Profiles (shifting to an asset based model) and supporting the shift to completion on SSNet (a secure platform)
  • Resources were developed and shared with elementary teachers to support the the creation and sharing of Transition Learner Profiles in SSNet
  • Support for course selection including preparing teachers, students, and families for the new destreamed course offerings
  • Students, including their families, who chose applied or locally developed programming for their Grade 9 year but were performing at a Level 3 or 4 in Elementary School were contacted to discuss the impact of pathway choices (158 out of 161 families contacted made course changes)
  • Promotion of My Pathway Planner (a career exploration and course selection tool)
    • Number of elementary student log-ins in 2018-2019: 162,720
      • Mean number of log-ins per active student account: 9.29
    • Number of elementary student log-ins in 2019-2020: 200,703
      • Mean number of log-ins per active student account: 11.19
    • Number of elementary student log-ins in 2020-2021: 171,446
      • Mean number of log-ins per active student account: 10.09

Secondary to Post-Secondary

  • A livestream session was provided to support students who preferred a virtual option or who were not able to secure a job shadowing opportunity for ‘Take our Kids to High School’ day 
  • Virtual Post-Secondary fairs at various secondary schools
  • Virtual 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 through SHSM: industry sector-recognized certifications to support students in their career pathway choice
  • Online 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 12 skilled trades - offered virtually and in-person
  • Fast Track to the Workplace and Apprenticeship: May 26 and 27, 2021- 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- virtually
  • Dual credit programming offers an opportunity for Grade 11 and 11 students to earn an OSSD as well as college credits and to make a successful transition to college.  In 2020-21, a new School Within A College (SWAC) program was added.  This 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 (this was run virtually in 2020-21)
  • Promoting Skilled Trades and Technologies opportunities: Virtual Event (STEM Activity, college visits) 33 classes participated in online activities with College partners 
  • Student Success provided secondary schools with 39 OCAS (Ontario College Application Services) vouchers and 34 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; there were 229 students enrolled and 232 credits were successfully completed.
  • Credit Recovery is offered at each school and centrally (through summer school) to support students in completing their OSSD requirements. In the 2020-2021 school year, 64 programs were offered and 1,067 students participated in learning around literacy, numeracy and credit attainment. 
  • Credits Recovered 2020-2021: A total of 665 credits were recovered of which 186 credits were recovered by students with an identification, 63 credits were recovered by English Language Learners, and 6 credits were recovered by students who self-identified as Indigenous
  • The YRDSB Reengagement Team reached out to students in Grades 12/12+ who disengaged with school prior to completing their OSSD; the team was able to contact 455 of the 588 students on the list to engage in conversations about programming and other supports students may need to return to school

​December 2021