What is the Options Skilled Trades Fair
Options was established in 2003 by Algonquin College, the Renfrew County District School Board, the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board and the Rotary Club of Petawawa. Its purpose was to raise awareness among high school students and youth in general of the opportunities available to them in the skilled trades sector. For the first three years, the event was held in Petawawa. It then moved to Renfrew for three years, before being offered in Pembroke.
Each year more than 2,000 high school students from across Renfrew County attend Options. They have the opportunity to explore interactive displays, ask questions of employers about apprenticeship training, and participate in skills competitions. The skills competitions have expanded over the years to includes trades like welding, carpentry, cabinet making, automotive repair, culinary management and masonry.
Since Options was launched several years there has been a steady increase in the number of high school students registered with the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship program. There has also been a jump in the number of registered apprentices in Renfrew County. In 2009, there were more than 500 registered apprentices in the county.
The Options Steering Committee has also established a bursary program that supports high school graduates who secure an apprenticeship when they leave school. Each year the committee awards several $400 bursaries to students who have taken part in O.Y.A.P. and then continued on with their apprenticeship by being hired by an employer following their work placement.
In 2008, Options was recognized by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities with a Service Innovation Award. The ministry noted the success of Options as a grassroots initiative to address the shortage of skilled trades workers in Ontario.