What is a Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM)?

By finding their passon, students get a head start on life! The Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) allows them to get a head start. A SHSM is a Ministry of Education approved program run at selected schools across Ontario and the Toronto District School Board. It is a combination of courses and experiences that allow students to gain specialized skills, knowledge and experience in a particular sector of the Canadian workforce and prepare them for the future. The SHSM program is available for all four post-secondary pathways (University, College, Apprenticeship & Workplace)

At SATEC @ WA Porter CI, we offer two different SHSM programs: Environment and Information & Communication Technology (ICT).

For more information on each program and the required courses go to www.satec.on.ca/shsm

Benefits of Enrolling in the SHSM Program

There are several benefits to enrolling in the SHSM program:

  • Students successful at earning a SHSM receive a special Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) with a red seal. This indicates they have specialist skills. In addition, transcripts and other student records document student’s participation in the SHSM Program.
  • Experiences from SHSM allow students to make connections with industry that will aid them in future career hunting.
  • Experiences from SHSM allow students to make a more complete resume.
  • The components of a SHSM ensure quality programs that are valued by post-secondary and employer partners.
  • The SHSM program provides evidence of achievement for prospective employers and post-secondary education institutions.
  • The SHSM program allows access to resources, equipment and expertise that are not available at most secondary schools.

SHSM Program Requirements

There are several requirements students must complete to earn the SHSM OSSD.


Students must take a core set of Ministry of Education approved courses that have been created and bundled to give experiences and skills an a particular sector. These courses are listed on the individual SHSM pages.

Cooperative Education

Students must complete 2 credits in Cooperative Education. Their placement must be in the Environment or ICT, depending on which program they are enrolled in. Coop allows students to explore particular careers and earn real-life job experiences.

Additional Learning Experience (CLA)

These are program related 6-hour modules that students need to complete in selected English and math courses.

Sector Recognized Certifications & Training

Students must complete certifications and/or training modules. These modules are recognized by industry as valuable skills. Three of the six certificates/modules must be First Aid, CPR and WHMIS. The other three are program specific. These qualifications and training give an advantage when entering the work force.

Experiential Learning & Career Exploration Activities

Students explore learning activities that take place outside the traditional classroom setting. It can include job twinning, work experience and virtual work experience. Students also explore their awareness of and develop the Essential Skills and work habits.

Reach-Ahead Experiences

Students participate in authentic experiences in their post-secondary option of choice. This will allow students to make an informed choice about future careers. Examples may include attending a university or college class, attending/planning a science/technology fair, attending a conference or workshop or completing a dual credit course.

Ontario Skills Passport

Allows students to develop knowledge of the Essential Skills and work habits required within the sector.

SHSM: Environment

Many students have difficulty with school because they have difficulty connecting their learning to their own lives or a career pathway. Here’s a possible direction… Earth needs YOU!

What could be more relevant than our own survival? What could be more rewarding than getting paid to save our planet? What could be cooler than having the whole world as your classroom?

The environment industry is now one of the top 5 employment sectors in the Canadian economy. A career pathway in the environment is rich in opportunity. Perhaps too rich – the environmental sector is currently facing a labour shortage. That is very scary! Just when our society is taking the health of our ecosystems seriously – no one is available to do the job.

No one, that was, until you chose SATEC and the Specialized High Skills Major program in the environment!

SHSM: Information & Communication Technology

Information and communication technology (ICT) is the sector that processes information using electronic systems. The ICT sector continues to transform our economy and everyday life. Core industries in this sector include:

  • Communications systems (e.g., telecommunications, cable/broadband, broadcasting, and other program distribution system)
  • Computer systems (e.g., computer engineering, technical support, electronics, robotics, network engineering)

Software and digital media (e.g., computer programming, computer and video games, simulations, computer animation, data management, web design, web portals, Internet security).

According to Industry Canada, the total number of ICT workers in Canada rose from 439,710 to 572,107 between 1997 and 2006, an increase of 30 per cent. Employees in the ICT sector are well compensated. On average, an ICT worker earned $58,618 in 2007 – 46 per cent more than the economy-wide average of $40,083.

Students enrolled in the SHSM-Information and Communications Technology will be involved in today’s rapid and exciting changes in technology and will help pave the way to new and emerging media and technologies in the years to come.

The SHSM–Information and Communications Technology enables students to build a foundation of sector-focused knowledge and skills before graduating and entering apprenticeship training, college, university, or an entry-level position in the workplace. Depending on local circumstances, the SHSM–Information and Communications Technology may be designed to have a particular focus – for example, on communication systems, computer systems, or software and digital media.

  • Pursuing the Specialist High Skills Major–Information and Communications Technology enables students to:
  • customize their secondary school education to suit their interests and talents while meeting the requirements for the OSSD;
  • select a bundle of 9 required credits focused on sector-specific knowledge and skills that are:
  • valued by the information and communications technology sector and post secondary educational institutions;
  • designed to help prepare students for a post secondary opportunity of their choice in this economic sector;
  • designed with the flexibility to allow students to shift between pathways (e.g., switch from a pathway leading to college to an apprenticeship pathway) or to discontinue the SHSM program should their career plans change in Grade 11 or 12;
  • provide evidence of achievement of the required components of the SHSM (e.g., sector recognized certifications) for prospective employers and post secondary educational institutions; explore, identify, and refine career goals to make informed decisions about their post secondary options;
  • take part in “reach ahead” experiences that will help them gain confidence in their ability to be successful, refine skills and work habits, and make an informed choice about future careers and next steps;
  • identify and develop Essential Skills and work habits that are required in the sector, using tools connected with the Ontario Skills Passport;
  • access resources, equipment, and expertise that may not be available in their secondary school.

Last Modified: June 10, 2015