Education Minister visits skilled trades school sites in HL&A

Education Minister Stephen Lecce (left) sports a new Limestone District School Board Specialist High Skills Major t-shirt as he and MPP Ric Bresee (far right) visit with students at Napanee District Secondary School. Photo submitted.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce made a visit to Hastings-Lennox and Addington on Wednesday, June 14, 2023 to check out some brag-worthy education options in the area.

Hastings-Lennox and Addington (HL&A) MPP Ric Bresee characterized the visit as “fun,” saying it was “great to do some showing off” of the local students, their work, and the programs available at schools in the riding.

In the morning, Lecce visited Limestone District School Board (LDSB) students in the Building Construction Internship Program at their construction site in Amherstview, and expressed that he was “incredibly pleased” to be meeting with students.

Bresee also expressed appreciation for the group of students, who he described as “excited to be working on [building tiny homes for the unhoused]. They’re giving back to the community… outside the classroom, and doing things with their hands.”

Bresee was impressed by the program developed at Ernestown Secondary School and run by teacher Dan Fisher with the assistance of John Armitage and Brookland Fine Homes.

That program makes a “huge effort towards [assisting] students who wouldn’t otherwise finish their education in many cases, [to] have the places that they’re comfortable with,” Bresee observed. “And it was great to see it’s a mix of young men and young women; we all know that we need more tradespeople in this province… This is the future of our trades industry.”

Bresee added, “Minister Lecce has been absolutely steadfast in recognizing that the status quo hasn’t always worked, that we need to continue to move forward and continue to innovate, to find ways to get more students more success. We know that traditional methods have been there, and they’ve worked for a long time, but they haven’t worked for everybody. And so he’s incredibly proud of the skilled trades side of the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program and things of that nature.”

Bresee noted that he believes students have an important role to play in the future of the riding. “I’m actually building four different Citizen’s Advisory Panels, one of them being a Youth Advisory Panel. And we’re appealing to the high schools, including all the schools where our students are going, even if they’re not in the riding.” He gave the example of Holy Cross Catholic High School in Kingston, which takes in a number of HL&A students despite being located just outside the riding.

From left to right: Minister Lecce, LDSB Trustee Tiffany Lloyd, and MPP Ric Bresee. Photo submitted.

In the afternoon, the visitors took in some classes at Napanee District Secondary School, including the Small and Recreational Engine class. School Trustees and senior school administrators joined the tour and Bresee described a good amount of conversation about “some of the things we need.”

He noted, “There is incredible support from our local community from the local businesses [for the apprenticeship programs] but we can’t continue to rely on that support as a base-level funding model. We need to have full support for the equipment and the supplies needed specifically for those tech programs.”

“You can have 30 students in a math class, and the textbooks [are reusable] year after year. There’s not a lot of supplies for that math class, for that English class, etc.,” he commented. “A tech program can’t have 35 students in a woodshop, and can’t have a woodshop with only $300 a year in supplies for that class.” 

“[Minister Lecce] is also incredibly proud of the funding that we’ve put into the special needs programs and the extra resources around the school systems,” Bresee said.

“We are hiring as fast as we can. We’ve added thousands and thousands of staff to the ministry’s total, if you will,” he said, noting, “it’s always a little challenging in that it is the school boards that are the direct employers. So there are multiple parties involved here.”

Lecce’s visit was arranged after Bresee participated in an event called “Take your MPP to School Day.” Bresee spoke about that experience, noting, “I got a chance to tour that site, and some sites over at NDSS as well… and I was so excited and so proud of what we’re doing here in this area that — I really did — I wanted to show it off to the minister. He’s always looking for those good-news stories to show off the successes of the programs that we’re working on. So I was able to bend [Lecce’s] ear and get them down here to see what we’ve done.”

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