SHSM Policy and Implementation Guide - Introduction
Specialist High Skills Majors

SHSM Policy and Implementation Guide - Introduction

1 How This Document Is Organized

The Specialist High Skills Major: Policy and Implementation Guide outlines the policy governing the Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) program, includes information on planning and implementing an SHSM program, and provides various relevant resources.

In schools across Ontario, students are building brighter futures through SHSM programs in many varied and exciting high-demand professions. These innovative programs are an important part of Ontario's commitment to providing all students with learning choices and opportunities that genuinely meet their needs, interests, and aspirations, and ensuringthat Ontario's education system helps every student achieve their highest potential.

This document has been designed to provide the information boards and schools need to develop and implement an SHSM program, based on ministry policy and the experience of educators across the province.

How This Document Is Organized

The document consists of three parts:

Section A details SHSM policy, outlining the requirements for the program in each of the sectors in which it is now offered in Ontario schools.

Section B outlines SHSM implementation, organization, planning, and school considerations.

Section C includes the tools and resources found to be most useful to teachers and administrators.

Additional resources are available on the Ministry of Education website, with supplementary tools and information on each of the SHSM programs.

Useful Tools and Resources

Helpful online tools and resources that support the planning and implementation of SHSMs include:

  • the ministry's SHSM website, which provides direct links to sections included in this guide as well as to other helpful resources that support the SHSM;
  • the Ontario Educational Resource Bank (OERB), a password-protected site, which provides contextualized learning activities (CLAs);
  • the SHSM e-Community website, a password-protected site that provides educators with opportunities to share resources, including those specifically developed to support SHSM programs.
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Ministry of Education SHSM website:


SHSM e-Community:

Throughout the document, look for the "Tools and Resources" icon. It identifies the tools and resources most relevant to each section of the guide.

Tools and Resources icon

We'd Like to Hear from You!

We hope you find this document useful and informative, and we welcome your comments and suggestions. As the SHSM programs continue to evolve and grow, we will be providing updates so that you always have the most current information. Please send your suggestions to the Ministry of Education's SHSM team by contacting the Student Success Policy Branch at

2 About the Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM)

The SHSM is a specialized, ministry-approved program that allows students to focus their learning on a specific economic sector while meeting the requirements of the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD).

SHSMs assist students in planning their transition from secondary school to apprenticeship training, college, university, or the workplace. SHSMs provide students with knowledge and experiences that can effectively inform their choices and help them plan for the future. They also engage the student with caring adults – including networks of educators and partners in the community and the sector – who can offer relevant, timely information and support.

These programs enable students to gain sector-specific skills and knowledge in engaging, career-related learning environments, and to prepare in a focused way for graduation and postsecondary education, training, or employment.

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A1: Components of an SHSM describes the five required components common to all SHSM programs.

A3: Sectors provides detailed information specific to each SHSM program, including information about careers, required credits, certifications and training programs, "reach ahead" opportunities, and experiential learning.

Seven Key Benefits for Students

Pursuing an SHSM enables students to:

  1. customize their secondary school education to suit their interests and talents;
  2. develop specialized knowledge and skills that are valued by the sector and postsecondary education institutions;
  3. earn credits that are recognized by the sector and postsecondary education institutions;
  4. gain sector-specific and career-relevant certification and training;
  5. engage in sector-partnered experiences that are relevant to the sector;
  6. identify, explore, and refine their career goals and make informed decisions about their postsecondary destination;
  7. remain flexible, with the option to shift between pathways should their goals and plans change.

About Occupations

Although SHSM programs are sector-specific, many different occupations are available within any given sector. Examples of occupations within each specific sector are provided in the SHSM program descriptions in Section A3: Sectors, sorted by the type of postsecondary education or training the occupation would normally require, and including National Occupational Classification (NOC) codes. The NOC is a system that describes and classifies all occupations in Canada using four-digit codes. This system and the codes are the authoritative source for occupational information in Canada. Entering one of these four-digit codes in the "Search job profiles" box on the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) web page, Ontario's Labour Market (, will generate occupational information related to that career.

3 Overview: The Planning and Implementation Process, Step by Step

A number of important steps are involved in planning, developing, and launching an SHSM. This series of guiding questions is designed to give you a snapshot of the process that will aid your understanding of the more detailed sections later in this guide.

Step 1: Familiarization


What are the key components of all SHSM programs? How are individual students' programs structured? What forms of classroom and experiential learning can be offered in an SHSM? What certification delivery models can be considered?


Which specific ministry-approved SHSMs can be offered? What kinds of sector opportunities do they offer students? What postsecondary opportunities might they lead to? What specific components and credits are required in each SHSM?

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See Section A3: Sectors.

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See Section B1: Organization.

Step 2: Organization


What key factors must you consider when developing the strategic plan for the SHSM programs? How will you go about identifying the specific program content, delivery model, and pathways that will provide a high-quality learning experience for students that is valued in the sector? Who should be involved in the process?


How can you ensure that stakeholders value your SHSM? How can you best align students' experiences with workplace expectations? How will you identify reliable service providers for certification and training? How can you bring all stakeholders together to ensure that your SHSM will provide students with a high-quality learning experience that will support their success in postsecondary education, training, or employment?


Who will champion the implementation of the SHSM? Which specific school or board staff members will be critical to the program's success?


What partnerships need to be developed to ensure that your SHSM will be effective and sustainable? Could you partner with other schools or boards to share resources? What opportunities exist to partner with local colleges, training centres, and universities? Which provincial and local sector organizations might support your SHSM and provide opportunities for certification and training? Which employers and organizations might provide cooperative education placements, reach ahead experiences, and sector-partnered experiences?

Step 3: Planning


Which SHSMs will be of interest to students in your school and region? What are the economic prospects in the region? Will you be able to secure the supports you need in the economic sector and community? Which SHSM(s) does your school and board have the capacity to offer?


Would the SHSM be best delivered by individual schools for their own students, or could the program be delivered at one school for students from several schools? Could a program be offered entirely or in part at a learning site other than a secondary school? What resources are required and available?


What should a detailed implementation plan include? What are the best approaches to timetabling and enrolment? How can you accommodate students with special needs?


Does your SHSM meet ministry guidelines? If your program is approved, what next steps should you take?

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See Section B2: Planning.

Step 4: Implementation


How can you ensure that students and parents understand the pathways to successful completion of the SHSM, and the choices available to them? Will students and parents clearly understand how to navigate the pathways to apprenticeship training, college, university, or the workplace?


How will you build awareness of and enrolment in the SHSM? How will you ensure that students and parents are aware of the benefits of your program? How will you keep postsecondary partners and sector partners aware and informed?


How will you encourage a shared sense of responsibility among staff for the success of the SHSM? How will you build knowledge and skills among staff, and work as a team, to provide a high-quality SHSM for students? Who should be involved in your SHSM professional learning community (PLC)?

Step 5: Program Evaluation


What student management systems and reporting processes need to be in place? How will you measure program success? What indicators should be used to measure success? How can data be used to continuously improve the SHSM, and to respond to changes in the needs of students and the economic sector? Who should be consulted in this ongoing evaluation?