September 2017

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Date: September 21, 2017

Memorandum to: Directors of Education

From: Cathy Montreuil
Assistant Deputy Minister
StudentAchievement Division

Denys Giguère
Assistant Deputy Minister
French-Language Teaching, Learning and Achievement Division

Subject: Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) Policy and Program Updates

This memo provides information about updates to the Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) program requirements. These updates will impact students starting the SHSM Program as of September 2017, and graduating in June 2018.

The Premier’s 2016 mandate letter to the Minister of Education is to expand the participation rate of grade 11 and 12 students in the SHSM program by 10 per cent. This commitment also aligns with recommendations made within the Premier's Highly Skilled Workforce Expert Panel report, Building the Workforce of Tomorrow: A Shared Responsibility, releasedin June 2016. The report makes recommendations on how the province can build on its world-class skills, education and training systems to prepare Ontario's current and future workforce. The report recognizes the SHSM as a program that provides students an opportunity to focus on a career path that matches their skills and interests while exposing them to opportunities in the workforce.

SHSM Board leads meet regularly with Ministry staff to discuss the SHSM program and provide recommendations on how the program can better meet local and student needs. These recommendations have culminated in the following three updates to the Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) program policy:

  1. Replace  the Ontario Skills Passport (OSP) with a Sector-Partnered Contextualized Component
  2. Fund the contextualized learning activity component (CLA) within the ‘Bundled Credits’ on an opt-in basis.
  3. Broaden the other required credit category to better reflect the courses taken by students with special education needs and the workplace pathway.

These updates will be reflected in the upcoming months in the SHSM Program and Policy Implementation Guide.

Context and Background

Ontario Skills Passport (OSP)

  • The OSP has been a component of the SHSM program since the development of SHSM in 2006. At the time, the OSP was regarded as the primary tool that students could use to assess their skills and work habits.
  • Since 2006, new tools, resources and programs have become available to the school community that can be used to assess and reflect on skills and work habits (Career Cruising, My Blueprint, CPS, online career exploration resources, ministry labour market information website, etc.).

Sector-Partnered Contextualized Component

  • The Sector-Partnered Contextualized Component will provide schools with the flexibility to adjust their programming to local capacity and opportunities, and align with the interests and needs of students.
  • This required component includes one of the following options: Innovation Creativity and Entrepreneurship (ICE) training, sector-delivered contextualized coding and sector-delivered mathematical literacy.
  • The Sector-Partnered Contextualized Component will require an approximately 6 hour activity, delivered with a sector partner and have an experiential and an assessment component.

Contextualized Learning Activities (CLAs)

  • CLAs have been a required component of the Bundled Credits since the development of SHSM in 2006. The ministry provided CLA funding as a component of the SHSM budget to boards.
  • Based upon feedback from boards, CLAs should continue to be encouraged but no longer funded in schools where CLAs are not delivered in an authentic and meaningful way.
  • Boards will opt-in to the CLA delivery and associated funding via the SHSM online reporting tool.

Additional courses counted towards ‘Other’ credit requirement

  • To support and promote more students participating in and completing SHSM and successfully transitioning to post-secondary pathways, the following courses will be added:
    • Ontario Literacy Course – OLC4O/CCL4O
    • Mathematics for Everyday Life /Mathematics for Work and Everyday Life – MEL3E or MEL4E
    • Learning Strategies – GLS4O/GLE4O

SHSM Board leads will attend a meeting with Ministry staff in Toronto on September 27, 2017. Part of this meeting time will be allotted to discuss implementation of these updates.

If you require further information or assistance on any of the elements of this memo, please contact Sudeshna Dutta at 416-325-2508,

Thank you for your on-going commitment to support success for all students. We look forward to working with you on this important endeavour and to hearing about the SHSM results achieved by your students.

Original signed by

Cathy Montreuil
Assistant Deputy Minister
Student Achievement Division

Denys Giguère Assistant Deputy Minister
French-Language Teaching, Learning and Achievement Division

cc. Student Effectiveness Leads
Student Success Leads
SHSM Board Leads
Regional Office Managers