It was a final chance for a talented group of local young chefs to show off their amazing culinary skills before bidding farewell to their teachers and classmates. At the end of June, the 2019 graduating class of the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) Level 1 Dual Credit Cook Program hosted food stations for special guests in the foyer of Georgian College, Owen Sound Campus.
Parents and family members joined college staff, representatives of Bluewater and Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Boards, along with other partners to sample a range of delectable hors d'oeuvres prepared by the students. Among others, tasty lunchtime menu items included pork meatballs with Meaford apple chutney, breaded chicken sliders topped with sweet onion, and three different flavours of ice cream/sorbet.
Following lunch and clean-up, students gathered in the gymnasium for a heartwarming, and at times, emotional graduation ceremony. Greetings and words of encouragement were shared by Bluewater District School Board Director of Education Alana Murray on behalf of both school boards, Owen Sound Mayor Ian Boddy, Chef Anthony (Tony) Bevan, and OYAP Coordinator/Facilitator Dave Barrett prior to the presentation of certificates. Kelly Wilkins, a co-op teacher at Owen Sound District Secondary School, helped to bring the ceremony to a close by presenting the Virginia Wiley Award to student Lincoln Brown.
The OYAP Level 1 Dual Credit Cook Program has been receiving some well deserved attention at the provincial level for its high completion rate. Last year, 90 percent of secondary students who participated in the program were successful in earning their Level 1 Cook certification. The program is offered during Semester 2, and allows students to participate in a combination of co-op education and Level 1 Apprenticeship training at the Owen Sound Campus of Georgian College. Courses include a focus on sanitation, safety and equipment, culinary techniques, business management, kitchen management, bake theory and techniques, food theory, and nutrition. Students have the opportunity to operate all facets of the Georgian Dining Room, including menu design, preparation, and the service of four course lunches to the general
Much of the program’s long history of success can be attributed to the many partners whose passion and expertise help to prepare students with a diverse range of culinary skills upon graduation. The amazing skills, hard work and mentorship of Chef Bevan and his culinary team have created a truly engaging program that promotes student success. Passionate and dedicated Dual Credit Teachers also work diligently to plan for and find the necessary resources to ensure students succeed, regardless of their background. Their efforts and expertise in the classroom have a direct correlation to the program’s four-year graduation rate of over 80 percent.
There are also numerous partners who have contributed in multiple ways to the program’s success through their accommodation and support. These include the Campus Team at Georgian College, the Chefs’ Committee that signs the apprenticeships and accepts students for co-op placements, the School College Work Initiative (SCWI) via the Central Lakes Regional Planning Team, countless administrative and teaching staff at Bluewater and Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Boards, the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities, and the dedicated staff at OYAP.
Other community partners include Employment Ontario (YMCA and VPI Working Solutions) who assist with resumes, resources, and mock interviews to prepare students for their co-op interviews. Community Futures Ontario (Saugeen and Bruce) have provided multiple workshops about entrepreneurship and customer service, among other areas for students. The Social Services and Economic Development departments at Bruce and Grey Counties also help students in numerous ways. QUILL Learning Network coordinates support for students who are struggling with aspects of the program and/or for those graduating who still require some upgrading. Efforts are also in the works to finalize a partnership with Regional Tourism Organization 7 (BruceGreySimcoe) to provide more experiential learning opportunities for students.
A high percentage of students in the program are securing jobs where they participated in their co-op placements. For example, a recent graduate has been working to complete the purchase of a long-time restaurant and catering business from her former co-op mentors. Another has been running the restaurant where he participated in his co-op while his employer opens a new location. One of last year’s graduates also purchased two food trucks that specialize in high end sandwiches after learning about youth entrepreneurship programs through OYAP.
A key strength of the SCWI is that educators, both within regional planning teams and across the province, are able to share successful strategies and learn from one another. While other culinary programs are struggling to attract and retain students, the OYAP Level 1 Dual Credit Cook Program continues to thrive.
"These kinds of stories are so valuable, and helpful! Especially when they have some years of demonstrated success behind them." – Pauline McNaughton, Manager, Program Implementation, Student Achievement Division, Ontario Ministry of Education
"I have fond memories (and no doubt a few extra pounds!) due to their Thursday lunches, which were known throughout the two counties. They also have had great success through the years in placing their Level 1s and graduates with some very high end restaurants, hotels and resorts, both here in Canada and abroad." – David Armstrong, Project Officer, SCWI
To learn more about the OYAP Level 1 Dual Credit Cook Program, contact Dave Barrett or Nancy Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.