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What is a Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM)?
  • An SHSM is a ministry-approved specialized program that allows students to focus their learning on a specific economic sector while meeting the requirements to graduate from secondary school. 
  • It also assists in their transition after graduation to apprenticeship training, college, university or the workplace.
Key Benefits of an SHSM
  • Pursuing an SHSM enables students to:
    • Customize their secondary school education to suit their interests and talents
    • Develop specialized knowledge and skills
    • Earn credits that postsecondary educational institutions and the sector recognize
    • Gain sector-recognized certification and career-relevant training
    • Develop Essential Skills and work habits documented through the Ontario Skills Passport
    • Identify, explore and refine career goals and make informed decisions about their future
    • Remain flexible, with the option to shift between pathways, should their goals and plans change.
How is an SHSM recognized?
  • Students who successfully complete an SHSM receive:
    • an Ontario Secondary School Diploma with an embossed red seal
    • an SHSM Record documenting his/her achievement
    • formal recognition on his/her Ontario Student Transcript.


Where are SHSMs being offered?
  • SHSM programs are available in all school boards across the province.
  • St John Henry Newman has offered the following SHSM Sectors since September 2013:
    • Information & Communication Technology
    • Sports
    • and it started its third SHSM - Non-Profit in November 2019

SHSM Components

  • Each SHSM consists of five required components:
    • 1.  Bundled Credits - A defined bundle of 9 credits taken in Grade 11 & 12, including Cooperative Education.
      • The Bundle consists of:
        • Major Credits - Each SHSM includes four Major credits — courses that enable students to build a foundation of sector-focused knowledge and skills before entering a post-secondary destination
          • Students must earn a minimum of 1 grade 11 major and 1 grade 12 major, however the other two credits can be earned in either grade 11 or grade 12. 
            • Here are the 3 options for earning the major credits:
              • One major in grade 11 and three majors in grade 12 OR
                Two majors in grade 11 and two majors in grade 12 OR
                Three majors in grade 11 and one major in grade 12
        • Required Credits - In addition to the four Major credits, each SHSM student must complete 3 other Required credits from the Ontario Curriculum (refer to the Sport and ICT Sector Pathways for a listing of these courses).
          • For each of these other Required credits, the teachers of these courses must incorporate a minimum of 6 hours of learning that contextualizes the subjects' curriculum expectations to the students' chosen SHSM sector. 
          • This can be done through e-learning or independent studies.
        • Two Cooperative Education Credits - Each SHSM pathway requires that students complete a minimum of 2 credits in Coop Education in a work placement in the students' chosen SHSM sector. 
          • Coop courses provide authentic learning experiences in a workplace setting that enable students' to refine, extend, apply, and practice the sector-specific knowledge and skills acquired in the bundle of credits.
          • PLEASE NOTE: Students may substitute up to two additional cooperative education credits for other credits in the bundle:
            • Allow one additional cooperative education credit to replace one major credit and/or one “other required” credit. In total, students may earn up to two additional cooperative education credits to be used in place of a major credit and an “other required credit” within the bundle.
          • This provides greater flexibility and recognizes the value of additional experiential learning, in particular for students in the workplace, apprenticeship or college pathways.
          • When possible, the additional cooperative education credits should be tied to the major credits
    • 2.  Certification and Training - All SHSMs' require 6 or 7 sector-recognized certifications that have been identified through sector consultations. They include:
      • 3 or 4 compulsory certifications or training courses/programs (e.g. First Aid, CPR, WHMIS, etc.) 
      • 3 remaining certifications, which are selected from a list of elective certifications or training courses/programs.
    • 3.  Experiential Learning and Career Exploration Activities - The SHSM experiential learning and career exploration consists of planned activities that take place outside the traditional classroom setting. 
      • These may take a variety of forms, including:
        • career exploration activities
        • job shadowing/twinning
        • work experience
        • virtual work experience.
    • 4.  Reach Ahead Experiences - Learning experiences connected with the students' post-secondary plans.
      • 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 posts-econdary certificate, diploma, or degree, or Level 1 apprenticeship (dual credit courses are ministry funded and subject to separate approval policies and procedures).
    • 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).
      • 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.

Essential Skills.jpg


  • Introduction to Specialist High Skills Major Movie - click to view