Ontario students will soon have to take a technology or trade credit in order to graduate.

Beginning in September 2024, students entering Grade 9 will be required to take a course of “technological education credit”, a move the Doug Ford government says will help guide them toward careers in a skilled workforce.

Students will be able to choose between a number of classes approved through the “technological education” curriculum in order to get their Ontario Secondary School Diploma. The curriculum includes a broad range of topics such as construction, transportation, manufacturing, computer technology, hospitality, and communications.

Exact course details have not yet been provided.

The announcement was made late Friday morning by Education Minister Stephen Lecce in Mississauga, Ont.

The goal of this change, Lecce said, is to create “new pathways to good jobs in STEM and the skilled trades.”

“All students will benefit from a greater emphasis on hands-on learning experiences and technical skills in the classroom so they can graduate with a competitive advantage in this country,” he said in a statement before the announcement.

Lecce told reporters there are a “massive number of courses available to students today” and more courses are being added every year to address the technological education curriculum. However, the province will require more teachers to meet those needs.

“We have a plan with respect to hiring more of these educators,” he said, adding the government is looking to leverage private sector experience as well.

He also said the addition of another required course will be in addition to the other mandatory to other graduation requirements, meaning students will still be asked to take classes related to art and physical education.

“This doesn't crowd out those opportunities,” Lecce said.

Officials noted Friday that men make up more than 70 per cent of workers in trades-related occupations and that they hope mandatory exposure to these courses will encourage more women to pursue careers in the trades.

As it stands, almost 39 per cent of Ontario secondary school students were enrolled in a technological education course in 2020-21. Of those students, the government said nearly 64 per cent were male.

The announcement comes days after the government rolled out a new program that will allow Grade 11 students to earn their high school diploma while doing an apprenticeship.