Successful High School Program Expanded, Teachers Celebrated

Department of Education (to March 26, 2013)

May 17, 2007 7:30 PM

More students will be better prepared for careers in Nova Scotia with the expansion of a successful high school program. Options and Opportunities, which gives students on-the-job experience while they are still in school, will be extended to Grade 11 and eight more schools this year.

Education Minister Karen Casey made the announcement today, May 17, at an event for teachers and administrators in the Options and Opportunities (O2) program.

"This program is the most significant change in our high schools in 30 years," said Ms. Casey. "We know that most jobs require post-secondary education. The strength of this program is that it connects students to employers early on so they see how their schoolwork leads to a job in Nova Scotia."

The program is designed to better prepare students for the labour market and help them make more-informed career choices. It focuses on career development and matches students with qualified employers to give them opportunities to gain experience in a real workplace. Students also have a direct pathway to post-secondary education through the Nova Scotia Community College. The community college has established a framework to admit O2 graduates to its programs.

This year, the O2 program was offered to almost 400 Grade 10 students in 27 schools across the province. In the 2007-08 provincial budget, the province announced it would invest an additional $1.5-million to expand the program to grade 11 in all 27 schools currently offering it. It will also expand to eight more schools in the province: Bridgewater Junior/Senior High School, Dartmouth High School, East Antigonish Education Centre/Academy, Glace Bay High School, Lockeport Regional High School, Millwood High School, North Colchester High School and West Kings District High School.

According to teachers, students and parents, the program has been a tremendous success.

"Teachers are telling us they're seeing significant improvements in student grades, attendance and discipline," said Peter Smith, a consultant at the Department of Education who visited O2 schools across the province. "Parents say their relationships with their children are better and students themselves have more self-esteem and self-confidence."

Samantha Hodgson, a 15-year-old Grade 10 student in a Halifax Regional Municipality high school, is one of those students.

"I feel more motivated and interested in school," said Ms. Hodgson. "My marks have gone way up, and I really like getting experience in, and out of, the classroom. I know I'll have a lot of choices and options when I graduate."

The program has also been well received by the business community and its success relies on the support of employers. This year, more than 200 employers supported O2 students through work placements, and that number will grow with the expansion of the program. In June 2006, the department launched the Invest in Youth initiative to encourage employers to get involved. To date, more than 3,000 employers joined a database that schools can access to identify opportunities for students.

Tim O'Regan, general manager of O'Regan's South Shore, Toyota, Hyundai and Subaru, got involved in the O2 program this year. Mr. O'Regan hosted three students from three local schools for work placements.

"We got involved in this program to educate youth in our community about the automotive technical trade and to introduce them to our business," said Mr. O'Regan. "There are a lot of misconceptions about this trade and we want youth to know that
this is a viable way to earn a good living in a good working environment. This will ultimately help us continue to run a successful business."

Ms. Hodgson and Mr. O'Regan shared their perspectives at an event for O2 teachers and administrators to showcase experiences and successes in the program.

"All of the teachers and principals involved with the program should be congratulated," said Ms. Casey. "They are helping to ensure that students who may otherwise have been lost in the system, are ready and able to seize the many opportunities Nova Scotia has to offer."


FOR BROADCAST USE:

     More students will be better prepared for careers in Nova

Scotia with the expansion of the Options and Opportunities

program.

     O-2 will be offered in grades 10 and 11 in 27 schools across

the province. The program will also be offered in eight new

schools.

     Education Minister Karen Casey says this program is the most

significant change in high school in 30 years. She also says that

its strength is in the connections between students and

employers.

     The O-2 program better prepares students for the labour

market and helps them make more-informed career choices. Students

are matched with employers for workplace experience.

     Tim O'Regan, an employer in the South Shore, says his

involvement with the program will help him continue to run a

successful business.

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Media Contact: Tara Walsh
              Department of Education
              902-430-5063
              E-mail: walsht@gov.ns.ca