Local Businesses Support SHSM Students’ Certifications


Near North District School Board (NNDSB) offers a wide range of programming options for students across the district. One program, the Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM), allows secondary school students in the pathways of apprenticeship, college, university or workplace to focus on sector-specific skills. Students gain specialized training and certifications while completing the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) requirements.

In past years, students benefited from many in-person trainings and certifications, but COVID-19 and the resulting lockdowns and shut-downs made accessing the certifications challenging, as in-person training is no longer an option.

Lisa Spencer, coordinator of student success, gap closing, secondary program and SHSM, says that students in the SHSM program complete their secondary school diploma requirements while also earning two coop credits, and between four and seven certifications. There are mandatory certifications, such as automated external defibrillator (AED) training, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), along with at least one sector-specific certification.

The orders in place around COVID meant that no one was able to come and teach those components.

NNDSB’s Health and Safety and Maintenance Coordinator, James Coventry, was able to access and post content through the board’s Safe Schools portal that enabled students to get some safety-related certifications.

Meeting some of the sector-specific requirements was more difficult, says Spencer. Trainers weren’t able to come to the schools, yet “we want them (students) in touch with the sector,” says Spencer. The benefits include businesses knowing about NNDSB students and their training, which opens doors for coop placements and employment, and exposes students to professionals in the sector.

SHSM students must spend six hours in a sector-partnered experience, which traditionally (pre-COVID) meant one day at the location of a business partner. COVID has altered how that is done; it means that students can no longer attend in person, but it also means students had access to a wider pool of partners thanks to technology.

One such connection made was with Anita Brisson, a local business owner, project management professional and a certified LEAN Six Sigma Black who has been providing professional development since 2006. The SHSM business students at both Chippewa and West Ferris Secondary Schools took her Project Management for Beginners course, in which they learned about time management, task breakdown and budgeting.

“The project management course gave students perspective about project scope and goals, and other skills that are valuable in the workplace,” says Spencer.

Other partnerships that developed because of COVID include Nipissing University, which created a sports/nutrition program for SHSM health and wellness students, and Inksmith, which worked on modules for SHSM students in the areas of math, coding, and innovations, creativity and entrepreneurship (ICE).

Spencer notes the relationships with leaders, sector entrepreneurs and partners in the community has not waned through the pandemic, and in fact, the partners have been helping to solve the problem of meeting the needs of the hours students need to meet their educational requirements.

These partners, she says, “align with our vision for learning”. The priority is always “what’s best for kids”, and other initiatives that have resulted in learning opportunities for students include a sector-partnered experience in coding and workshops for students on musical instrument care.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here