Specialist High Skills Majors

SHSM Policy and Implementation Guide – Section A1: Policy

A1. Components of an SHSM

A1.1 Overview: Components of an SHSM
A1.2 Bundled Credits
A1.3 Certification and Training
A1.4 Experiential Learning and Career Exploration
A1.5 Reach Ahead Experiences
A1.6 Development of Essential Skills and Work Habits

A1.1 Overview: Components of an SHSM

Each SHSM consists of five required components:

  1. Bundled credits
    A defined bundle of credits consisting of eight to ten Grade 11 and Grade 12 credits, including cooperative education credits
  2. Certification and training
    Sector-recognized certifications and training courses and programs
  3. Experiential learning and career exploration activities
    Experiential learning and career exploration activities within the sector
  4. Reach ahead experiences
    Learning experiences connected with the student's postsecondary plans
  5. Essential Skills and work habits
    Development of Essential Skills and work habits required in the sector, recorded using the tools in the Ontario Skills Passport (OSP)

INSIGHT

The requirements of each SHSM are unique and geared to a specific sector. The design of all SHSMs, however, follows the model described here and includes all five components. The specific requirements of each SHSM are detailed in Section A3: Sectors.

Insight icon

In this section you will find a comprehensive description of the five required components for all SHSMs.

Why five components?
The five required components are designed to give students a rich and varied range of curriculum-based and experiential learning experiences, as a foundation for making a successful transition to their chosen postsecondary education or training program or occupation in the workplace.

How were the components designed?
These components were designed to ensure that each SHSM provides a quality program that postsecondary educational and employer partners value and that opens doors for graduates. The components were developed in consultation with representatives of business and industry sectors, unions, sector councils and associations, postsecondary and other educational institutions, training organizations, school boards, and other ministries.

What do graduates receive?
Students who complete the requirements for the OSSD and for the SHSM will receive an OSSD with an embossed SHSM seal on it. Credits earned towards the SHSM are indicated on the Provincial Report Card, and completion of the SHSM is recorded on the Ontario Student Transcript (OST). In addition, students receive an SHSM Record outlining their achievement in the five required components.

POLICY

  • An SHSM must be offered in all four pathways: apprenticeship training, college, university, and workplace.
  • Students must successfully complete all five required components to earn the SHSM designation on their diploma.
  • No substitutions for any of the required components are permitted; however, school boards may add to the SHSM's components to reflect a local emphasis.
Policy icon

A1.2 Bundled Credits

Each SHSM requires completion of a bundle of eight to ten Grade 11 and Grade 12 credits. The bundle consists of:

  • four major credits;
  • two to four other required credits; and
  • two required cooperative education credits.

The credits in the bundle provide students with knowledge and skills particular to, and valued by, the SHSM sector. Therefore, the required credits for each SHSM will vary, depending on:

  • the specific sector of each SHSM program;
  • the student's chosen pathway to one of four postsecondary options – apprenticeship training, college, university, or the workplace – within each SHSM.

POLICY

  • Boards and schools may offer only the SHSMs for which they have ministry approval.
  • The credits in each SHSM bundle must be approved by the ministry.
  • Unless otherwise stated, no substitutions for the credits in the bundle are permitted, and the credits must be at specified grade levels.
Policy icon

Major Credits

Each SHSM includes four major credits, with at least one Grade 11 and one Grade 12 course in the total of four. The major credits enable students to build a foundation of sector-focused knowledge and skills before they enter a postsecondary destination.1

Major credits are specific to the destination and may be:

  • Ontario curriculum credits;
  • ministry-approved locally developed credits (LDCs);
  • ministry-approved credits for learning acquired outside the Ontario curriculum, such as dual credits.

One of the four major credits may be a cooperative education credit related to the sector. (This credit would be additional to the two required cooperative education credits in the bundle.)

1. School boards can nominate courses for use as major credits in the SHSMs they wish to offer, and the ministry maintains a master list of eligible major credit courses for each sector, which it distributes annually to all Ontario boards.

Are there opportunities for further specialization?
An SHSM can be designed to focus on a specific area within the given sector – for example, the SHSM–Business can focus on entrepreneurship, marketing, accounting, or some other area of business. This focus is achieved through the selection of the four major credits in the bundle. Depending on local circumstances, boards may elect to offer one or more variants of the SHSM in a given sector, each with a particular area of focus. Where a choice of focus areas is offered, students must select one.

Other Required Credits

In addition to the four major credits, an SHSM student must complete two to four other credits from the Ontario curriculum, as required for the SHSM in the particular sector. (One of these credits, as specified for the particular sector, may be substituted by a cooperative education credit in the sector, which would be additional to the two cooperative education credits required in the bundle of credits.)

For each of these other required credits, the teacher of the course must incorporate a contextualized learning activity (CLA) – an activity that involves a minimum of six hours of learning, based on the curriculum expectations, that is contextualized to the SHSM sector.

How do CLAs benefit students?
CLAs enable adaptation using sector-specific content, to meet one or more curriculum expectations. CLAs in the other required credits make the course content authentic, relevant, and enable students to connect their learning to their SHSM sector.

How are CLAs delivered?
CLAs can be delivered in various ways:

  • to an entire class, some of whose members are SHSM students (recommended)
  • to an entire class, all of whose members are SHSM students
  • to an individual or a small group of SHSM students within an existing class
  • to individual SHSM students, through e-learning or independent study

TOOLS AND RESOURCES

For examples of CLAs created by educators across Ontario, visit the Ontario SHSM e-Community website or the OERB website

Tools and Resources icon

SUCCESSFUL PRACTICE

Before the CLA is developed or delivered to students, it is beneficial to have the teachers of the other required credits familiarize themselves with the sector-specific knowledge and skills of the SHSM major credits.

For example, in a Construction SHSM, the math teacher might visit the home building site for the construction course to observe how mathematical principles are applied in the calculation of the rise, run, and length of roof rafters.

By contextualizing courses, teachers of the other required credits (such as English or mathematics) gain insight into the relationship between their subject and the sector and can then help the SHSM student make connections between course work and their sector.

Successful practice icon

Who delivers CLAs?
CLAs are delivered by the teachers of the other required credits (e.g., English, mathematics, science).

Do CLAs require approval?
Teachers may use the CLAs posted to the Ontario Educational Resource Bank and the SHSM e-Community websites. The posted CLAs were developed and submitted by teachers across the province and reviewed and approved by the ministry prior to posting. Teachers may also use CLAs that they have developed for their own students, without seeking ministry approval. All CLAs, whether to be submitted for ministry approval and posted or not, should be developed using the template that has been provided in Section C: Resources.

TOOLS AND RESOURCES

See Section C: Resources for:

  • the CLA template for ministry approval
  • a rubric for assessing the quality of the CLA
Tools and Resources icon

Cooperative Education Credits

Cooperative education courses provide authentic learning experiences in a workplace setting that enable students to refine, extend, apply, and practise the sector-specific knowledge and skills acquired in the bundle of credits.

How many credits are required?
Each SHSM pathway requires that students complete a minimum of two cooperative education credits in a work placement in the sector.

Wherever possible, cooperative education credits must be tied back to the courses in the SHSM bundle of credits. However, some students are unable to meet this requirement because their timetable allows them only the summer before Grade 11 to complete the two required cooperative education credits. Where this is the case, the Grade 10 Career Studies course (GLC2O) may serve as the related course for the cooperative education credits for an SHSM in any sector, and the Grade 10 Civics course (CHV2O) may be used as the related course for an SHSM in the Environment; Non-profit; or Justice, Community Safety, and Emergency Services sector.

Students who are enrolled in an SHSM program with a university destination should be encouraged to complete their cooperative education credits before Grade 12, so that they can focus on completing the credits they need for admission to the postsecondary program of their choice.

Can additional cooperative education credits be included in the bundle?
Although only two cooperative education credits are required for an SHSM, more than two are recommended (if the student's timetable permits), to a maximum of four. Of the additional two cooperative education credits that are allowed:

  • one may be used as one of the four major credits;
  • one may be substituted for a credit in the Other Required Credits component, as specified in the requirements for the particular sector.

All four cooperative education credits in the bundle must be sector-related.

TOOLS AND RESOURCES

Depending on local circumstances, students may have to complete their cooperative education credits through continuing education (after school, at night school), in the summer, or through virtual cooperative education.

See Cooperative Education and Other Forms of Experiential Learning: Policies and Procedures for Ontario Secondary Schools, 2000

Tools and Resources icon

A1.3 Certification and Training

All SHSMs require sector-recognized certifications or training courses/programs that have been identified through extensive sector consultations. They include specified numbers of:

  • compulsory certifications or training courses/programs (e.g., first aid, CPR);
  • elective certifications and/or training courses/programs, which are selected from a list provided in this guide for each SHSM.

This guide provides a current listing of compulsory and elective certifications and training courses/programs for each SHSM sector.

POLICY

The certifications and training courses/programs identified in this guide are specific to each SHSM. Boards and schools offering an SHSM may not:

  • substitute other programs for the certifications and training courses/programs listed in this guide;
  • reduce the specified number of certifications and training courses/programs required for the SHSM.

School boards and schools may, however, provide opportunities for students to earn additional certifications and complete additional training. This enables boards and schools to customize their programs to reflect a local focus. School boards have an opportunity, on an annual basis, to propose additional certifications and/or training that are then reviewed by the ministry. If approved, they are added to the list of certification and training programs.

Policy icon

How do students benefit?
This component of the SHSM enables students to acquire knowledge and skills related to health and safety, along with sector-specific certifications and training. Students with sector-recognized certifications and training have an advantage when entering the workforce.

What delivery criteria should be followed?
Certification and training courses/programs must:

  • be delivered by a certified trainer – a person recognized by the certification provider or by the sector as an authority (this requirement does not apply to the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System [WHMIS]);
  • include an assessment and evaluation component;
  • include, wherever possible, documentation such as a certificate or other proof of completion for the student's portfolio and the student's SHSM Record, which will indicate the title of each certification earned or training course/program completed;
  • be recorded and include documentation of the number of hours involved, and the date the certification/training was completed.
Find It icon

FIND IT!

The requirements for certification and training recognized and recommended by the sector are described for each SHSM in Section A3: Sectors.

What forms of delivery might be considered?
The following table illustrates the factors schools and boards may want to consider in selecting a certification delivery model.

Certification and Training: Delivery Models
Delivery Model Advantages Disadvantages
Industry-delivered
  • is current
  • is sector-recognized
  • includes a hands-on component
  • provides exposure to the sector
  • provides authentic learning
  • may be expensive
  • may present a scheduling challenge
Online training
  • is accessible
  • can be completed any time, during the day, evening, or weekends
  • requires little supervision
  • can be cost-effective
  • lacks a hands-on component
  • may not accommodate learners with special needs
  • may be expensive
Co-delivered by industry/education partner and secondary school
  • can be differentiated according to learner needs
  • fosters partnerships
  • requires coordination and scheduling
Teacher-delivered ("train the trainer" model) (teacher is certified to deliver the certification or training program)
  • is cost-effective
  • is sustainable and builds capacity
  • is more easily embedded in curriculum delivery
  • allows for a hands-on component
  • reduces scheduling challenges
  • can be differentiated according to learner needs
  • lacks sector exposure when no sector representative participates in the certification
  • may not be perceived as genuine or current by students

 

A1.4 Experiential Learning and Career Exploration

The SHSM experiential learning and career exploration requirement consists of planned learning activities that take place outside the traditional classroom setting. Experiential learning may take a variety of forms, including:

  • career exploration activities
  • job shadowing
  • job twinning
  • work experience
  • virtual work experience

POLICY

Although cooperative education is also a form of experiential learning, students must participate in additional experiential learning and career exploration activities in order to meet the SHSM requirements.

Time spent on experiential learning activities cannot be counted towards the hours of community service required for graduation.

Policy icon

How do students benefit?
Experiential learning and career exploration activities give students opportunities to explore, observe, participate in, and reflect on a variety of sector-specific experiences and careers. These activities also enable students enrolled in the SHSM to find out about the opportunities available in careers that interest them.

TOOLS AND RESOURCES

Tools and Resources icon

SUCCESSFUL PRACTICE

Experiential learning and career exploration activities could include the following:

  • participation in a technological skills competition
  • one-on-one observation of a cooperative education student in a placement in the sector (example of job twinning)
  • a day-long observation of a person working in the sector (example of job shadowing)
  • a one- or two-week work experience with a member of an industry association or a professional in the sector (example of work experience)
  • a career talk by a local sector representative
  • attendance at a career fair or a conference hosted by the sector
Successful practice icon

What placement criteria should be followed?
Experiential learning placements for students must be arranged by the school and must meet the following requirements if the experience exceeds one day:

  • A teacher must assess a placement before the student is assigned to it to ensure that the placement offers a positive learning environment and a safe workplace.
  • The student must have Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) coverage through the ministry or the workplace.

What forms of experiential learning might be considered?
The following table summarizes the forms of experiential learning and related programs you may want to consider:

Forms of Experiential Learning and Career Exploration
Experience Description Key Requirements
Career exploration activities
  • activities that allow students to explore career opportunities through work-site tours, career conferences or competitions (e.g., Skills Canada), simulation activities (e.g., Junior Achievement), and contact with a career mentor
  • may be incorporated into any credit course
  • count towards the experiential learning component required for an SHSM
  • preparation for every activity, including learning expectations, activity protocols, and health and safety
  • opportunity for students to reflect on the activity
  • completed field-trip form and transportation agreement
Job shadowing
One-half to one day (in some cases up to three days)
  • one-on-one observation of a worker at a place of employment
  • may be incorporated into any credit course
  • counts towards the experiential learning component required for an SHSM
  • teacher selection of an appropriate placement in a safe work environment
  • preparation for the placement, including review of learning expectations, activity protocols, and health and safety
  • opportunity for students to reflect on the experience
  • completed field-trip form and transportation agreement
  • WSIB coverage if placement is more than one day
Job twinning
One-half to one day
  • one-on-one observation of a cooperative education student at his or her placement
  • may be incorporated into any credit course
  • counts towards the experiential learning component required for an SHSM
  • pairing of a student with a cooperative education student
  • preparation for the placement, including review of learning expectations, activity protocols, and health and safety
  • opportunity for students to reflect on the experience
  • completed field-trip form and transportation agreement
Work experience/virtual work experience
One to four weeks
  • a planned learning opportunity that provides students with relatively short-term work experience. Virtual work experience is facilitated through the use of communications technology from the school.
  • may be incorporated into any credit course
  • counts towards the experiential learning component required for an SHSM
  • placement assessment
  • pre-placement instruction addressing job-readiness skills, placement expectations, and health and safety
  • opportunity for students to reflect on the experience
  • development of a learning plan
  • WSIB coverage

 

A1.5 Reach Ahead Experiences

Students pursuing an SHSM must have opportunities for reach ahead experiences connected with their postsecondary plans.

What are reach ahead experiences?
These experiences enable Grade 11 and 12 students to gain confidence in their ability to be successful, refine skills and work habits, and make informed choices about future careers and next steps. Reach ahead opportunities could include:

  • interviewing an employee in the field of work the SHSM student is considering;
  • visiting an approved apprenticeship delivery agent to investigate a program of interest to the SHSM student;
  • interviewing a college or university student enrolled in a program of interest to the SHSM student;
  • attending a number of college or university classes in the student's area of interest;
  • attending a conference or workshop held by the sector;
  • completing a dual credit course, which counts for credit towards both the OSSD and a postsecondary certificate, diploma, or degree, or Level 1 apprenticeship. Dual credit courses are ministry funded and subject to separate approval policies and procedures. For more information about dual credit courses, please refer to Dual Credit Programs – Policy and Program Requirements, 2013.

A1.6 Development of Essential Skills and Work Habits

SHSM programs help students develop the Essential Skills and work habits that will prepare them for lifelong success, using the Ontario Skills Passport (OSP) as a planning and documentation tool.

What is the OSP?
The OSP is a free, bilingual, Web-based resource that provides clear descriptions of the Essential Skills and work habits important for work, learning, and life.

What are Essential Skills?
Essential Skills are the generic skills used in virtually all occupations and many aspects of daily life. They enable people to perform tasks required in their jobs and to participate fully in the workplace and the community. Essential Skills provide the foundation for learning other skills, such as technical skills and job- or workplace-specific skills, and they help people adjust to change. The OSP also includes important work habits such as working safely, working as part of a team, reliability, and initiative.

The Essential Skills and work habits described in the OSP are illustrated in the table below.

The Ontario Skills Passport: Essential Skills and Work Habits
Essential Skills Work Habits

Reading Text
Writing
Document Use
Computer Use
Oral Communication

Numeracy
Money Math
Scheduling or Budgeting and Accounting
Measurement and Calculation
Data Analysis
Numerical Estimation

Thinking Skills
Job Task Planning and Organizing
Decision Making
Problem Solving
Finding Information
Critical Thinking

Working safely
Teamwork
Reliability
Organization
Working independently
Initiative
Self-advocacy
Customer service
Entrepreneurship

The OSP provides sample tasks for each Essential Skill and work habit – in work, learning, and everyday life contexts – and illustrates how workers use Essential Skills on the job. The OSP Learner Chart identifies the key OSP tools and resources for helping students build confidence and competence and make connections between their studies at school and their prospective careers. These tools and resources can help students develop their Individual Pathways Plan (IPP) as they answer the four education and career/life planning inquiry questions: Who am I? What are my opportunities? Who do I want to become? What is my plan for achieving my goals?

INSIGHT

  • Sector representatives consulted on the development of the SHSMs emphasized the importance of the Essential Skills and work habits.
  • Employment and Social Development Canada (formerly Human Resources and Skills Development Canada) has identified and validated the Essential Skills described in the OSP. The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities co-sponsor the OSP.
  • Essential Skills and work habits are transferable from school to work or to further education or training, as well as from job to job and sector to sector.
Insight icon

How is the OSP used in an SHSM?
Students use the OSP to learn about Essential Skills and work habits, occupation-related tasks, and careers relevant to the SHSM they have chosen. Teachers provide students with opportunities to use the OSP to assess, practise, and build their Essential Skills and work habits and gather evidence of their skills demonstration during the SHSM experience.

The OSP in cooperative education programs
Students beginning an SHSM cooperative education program will create an OSP Work Plan related to their goals, interests, and particular SHSM sector. The student's work placement supervisor is encouraged to assess and record the Essential Skills and work habits demonstrated by the student, using the OSP documentation tools.

TOOLS AND RESOURCES

Ontario Skills Passport logo

Visit the OSP website to find all the resources described in this section, including:

  • Introduction and tips
  • Use the OSP to support the development of the IPP
  • Use the OSP to support the development of the "All About Me" portfolio
  • Assess skills in learning activities
  • Assess skills through an interview
  • Create an OSP Training Plan
  • SkillsZone – sample activities linked to curriculum, etc.
  • Resources and links
Tools and resources icon

The OSP in experiential learning and career exploration
The OSP can also be used effectively in conjunction with experiential learning and career exploration activities. For example, students can use the reference sheets, videos, occupational profiles, and self-assessment tools to learn about Essential Skills and work habits and see how they are used in everyday life and on the job in careers relevant to the SHSM. These activities give students opportunities to explore, observe, participate in, and reflect on a variety of sector-specific experiences and careers. They also enable students to increase their awareness of and develop the Essential Skills and work habits required in the sector. An experiential learning assignment or task could require students to identify examples of how the Essential Skills are applied in specific trades and administrative and management occupations – for example, the Essential Skills used by an agricultural equipment mechanic, greenhouse operator, or veterinarian in an agricultural business.

SUCCESSFUL PRACTICE

A skills-based résumé is beneficial for students in preparation for interviews and meetings with employers. Such a résumé would clearly indicate their attainment of Essential Skills and work habits.

Students can use the OSP Tracker and the OSP Reflection Worksheet to plan opportunities for skills development during high school and after graduation. They can find information about education, training, employment, and volunteer opportunities at the provincial and local levels at Ontario WorkInfoNet and Individual WorkInfoNet

Successful practice icon

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 "Quick Search" box in the left-hand menu on the National Occupational Classification website results in occupational information related to that career.

For more information on occupations:

  • go to the OSP website;
  • go to the "Search for Tasks" section and select "By Occupation";
  • select an occupation that interests you to view a description of the occupation, an overview of the Essential Skills required, a list of sample tasks, and assessment tools and other career and employment information related to the occupation.

Note: This resource uses information based on the 2006 NOC. An update to the NOC in 2011 resulted in changes to the codes and titles for many occupations, and in some cases to the occupations included in the group. More detail about these changes is available on the NOC website. Ontario Job Futures uses information based on the 2006 NOC.