This September, many students will start their first year in college or university. But some of their high school classmates are stuck wondering what's next.
A new pilot program, launching Monday north of Toronto, is designed to help Ontario high school graduates who are done school and don't yet know how they'll start the rest of their life.
FOCUS, which offers free employment services in Alliston and Angus, Ont., is introducing The GAP Year program to help students who take a year off to figure things out.
CBC Hamilton's Conrad Collaco spoke with Angela Adams, outreach coordinator for FOCUS. She hopes her plan will help students across Ontario.
Here's an edited and abridged transcript of that conversation. Listen to the full interview by clicking the image at the top of this page.
Angela Adams, FOCUS outreach coordinator
What are you hearing from students who finish high school and wonder what's next?
We had a number of student come in to our office in the spring. They were trying to keep with the crowd and had some career plans and post-secondary plans. But it was probably more insecurity and they didn't feel confident about the choices they made. A lot of them didn't end up taking that post-secondary plunge they thought they might. Now that they are out of the high school security, they are unsure about how to find the answers about what their next step is. We have designed a program at FOCUS that is designed to help them through that and give them the support they are missing now that they are out of high school.
A lot of the kids, they go 'I don't know what to do so I just go to Honda.' - Angela Adams, Outreach Coordinator at FOCUS
What has been happening to the students in your area who aren't sure about what to do after high school?
In our area, in Alliston and Angus just south of Barrie and north of Toronto, we are heavily laden in manufacturing. We have a big Honda plant. A lot of the kids, they go "I don't know what to do so I just go to Honda." But they did have bigger aspirations and ideas. They have been coming in to us. Listening to their concerns made me wonder how we can help walk these kids through a program that will help give them a plan for the next year.
How do you get the student on a path they may have dreamed about but weren't sure how to achieve?
We start with career decision making. We go through Myers-Briggs and the Jung Personality Assessment and we see if there are any ideas that spark their interest and match their skill set. Then we direct them toward attaining those goals. We recognize that their goals may require qualifications they don't have, so they may have to get themselves from that high school level to some sort of post-secondary to obtain the career they wish for.
We are also going to work on their resumes. They've probably worked on a resume in Grade 10 and not touched them since then. I'll introduce them to free, online courses that can help them build their resume. We'll show them how to market themselves through social media and make sure they don't post things that employers find distasteful. We'll also help them apply for OSAP and university or college applications. We'll also teach them how to budget.
Is there a cost to be a part of the program?
FOCUS is a not for profit. We are funded in part by the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario through Employment Ontario. Everything we have to offer here is free.
Are you expecting the program to grow out of the South Simcoe area and expand across the province?
I definitely think there is a need to support those kids leaving high school and to throw them to the wolves is not beneficial for our economy. I hope that talking about this gap year will open the discussion and have the potential to reach other service providers in the province.
Do you believe most students need an additional year after Grade 12 before they are ready for college or university?
Some students need the extra support. They feel there is a level of expectation to follow the masses. When you hear everybody is talking about what they are doing next, you can get swallowed up in that path. But there are those kids who are not sure. Having an organization that can provide the same support that a guidance team would in your high school and have impartial views on how to move forward — they could use that. They meet with like-minded students and feel like they are not alone.