Windsor-Essex ‘Construction Academy’ pioneer wins Canadian teaching award
In this April 19, 2017, file photo, students with the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board's Construction Academy at St. Joseph's Catholic High School in Windsor gather around teacher Cory McAiney to learn about the skills needed to work in various trade industries. PHOTO BY DAN JANISSE /Windsor Star
The Academy, which only just opened an expanded hands-on learning centre inside the former St. Anne high school in Tecumseh, has elevated a high school technology program to trade school status, partnering with employers and suppliers, unions, college and provincial ministries. It’s a one-stop shop for students registering for apprenticeships in carpentry, plumbing, masonry, electrical and more.
“It’s such an honour, of course, but there are so many great tech studies teachers here — I’m just one,” said McAiney, currently the board’s curriculum consultant for technological studies, Pathways and the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP).
Grade 11 students receive instruction from Cory McAiney on installing vinyl siding on a project house at the Construction Academy based out of St. Joseph’s Catholic High School, on April 11, 2018. PHOTO BY DAX MELMER /Windsor Star
The genesis for the Construction Academy came in 2015 when McAiney — a red seal-certified carpenter with industry experience — was a construction teacher at St. Joseph’s high school. His high school, with carpentry, and F.J. Brennan with its masonry program decided to take high school teaching in skilled trades to the next level.
The resulting “winning formula,” he said, is fast gaining attention and now referred to across the province as the ‘Windsor-Essex Model.’ Just in the last year, said McAiney, 14 different school boards sent representatives to Windsor and Essex County to see how they could emulate what’s being done here, and he said more such delegations will be visiting in the coming weeks.
Grade 11 students Maggie MacDonald, right, and Jovaun Cooley get instruction from Cory McAiney on April 11, 2018, as they practice constructing a knee wall for an upcoming Habitat for Humanity home while at the Construction Academy based out of St. Joseph’s Catholic High School. PHOTO BY DAX MELMER /Windsor Star
Last year, the local Catholic school board’s skilled trades programs had 295 OYAP participants (those at the initial stages of apprenticeships) and 118 OYAP registrants (those signed up for apprenticeships).
“We challenge our students and make them well-rounded,” said McAiney. “This is a winning formula — we’ve really upped the game.”