Apprenticeship changes come at a price

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By Anthony Agostino

If the pressures of university are sending you into a frenzy, there is another option – drop out and become a working apprentice.

The revamped program, New Directions for Ontario’s Apprenticeship System/ was announced Monday by Education Minister Dave Johnson. But unlike the past apprenticeship program, apprentices will not be learning for free.

Apprentices will spend between 85 to 90 percent of their time learning skills while on the job. The remainder will be in a classroom setting where they will learn more advanced trade skills.

The apprenticeship program is a good option for someone who wants out of university but still desires a well-paying job.

However, the program is about to become that much more costly. The federal government will stop donating the $40 million it has annually contributed to apprenticeship programs by July 1999.

To compensate, the province will charge tuition fees to  all apprentices.

“Apprentices are very well positioned to investing in their own career,” said Barb Simmons, coordinator of the apprenticeship reform project, “unlike  university or college students who often switch programs or end up $40,000 in debt by the time they graduate.”

The federal government will step in and provide loans and grants to apprentices unable to afford their new classroom tuition fees.Simmons said the province’s current challenge is to change the perception younger people have of apprenticeship opportunities.

“A lot of people tend to think that if you’re not going to pass grade 12, you should go be an auto mechanic. Not only is that unfair, but it’s untrue.”

Changing the public’s perception has been “a bit, long-standing challenge.”

Simmons said the average apprentice is 27 years old because people often don’t decide on their career until they’re older, or don’t realize the opportunity until after university or college.

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