Skills Jeremy Lemco really likes cars. And as the Grade 11 student was weighing his career options last year, he decided to take his hobby a step further.

“I thought, hey, why don’t I just be a mechanic?” he recalls. “I like cars, I like looking at and seeing how cars work, all that stuff — so why not work on them?”

Signing up through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program and his high school’s co-op program, Lemco worked at an East York car shop every other day throughout the school year, helping with oil changes, tires, suspension work, brakes, clean-up and more.

He plans to return to the shop during Grade 12 and then continue working toward his Certificate of Apprenticeship after graduation, including attending classes at Centennial College for part of the year.

Lemco may have a head-start as a high school student, but his experience is just one of the many paths one can take to becoming a mechanic in Ontario.

Centennial’s School of Transportation, the largest of its kind in Canada, offers five types of programs for aspiring mechanics, otherwise known as technicians: Post-secondary, apprenticeships, co-ops, modified apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships.

The school’s many industry partners, including Ford, GM and Bombardier, allow students to get valuable hands-on training, says Jaimini Randev, the school’s dean. “They donate a lot of inventory to us, like vehicles and engines and components and brake parts and all kinds of teaching materials … We have over $30 million worth of inventory here.”

The programs also prepare students for the provincial qualification exam that will earn them a Certificate of Qualification, a requirement of workers in certain skilled trades including automotive service technician and refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic.

However, not all skilled trades call for certification. Aircraft mechanics, or officially, aircraft mechanical engineers (AMEs), are instead licensed through Transport Canada.

Similar to automotive technicians, the most common training path to becoming an AME is attending an approved training organization, followed by on-the-job training and completion of Transport Canada exams.

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