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  • Steve Taylor

Specialized High Skills Major

Updated: Jun 12

by Steve Taylor

WillowWood School is proud to announce the addition of the Specialized High Skills Major (SHSM) to our high school programming. Starting In February 2025, WillowWood will be one of the very few private schools to offer the SHSM program in Ontario!


What is it?

SHSM is a Ministry of Education-approved program for students to simultaneously earn credits toward their Ontario Secondary School Diploma and specialize in a particular economic sector (Health & Wellness, Arts & Culture, or Business).


What does the student need to do?

To qualify for the program, students must obtain a minimum average of 70% in the pre-requisite courses and complete an interview with our SHSM program leaders. To complete the SHSM certification requirements, students will need to complete a specific bundle of 8-10 credit courses in their chosen field, obtain industry-specific training and certifications, and acquire essential skills through cooperative education placements.

What do students get with their SMSH certification?

By completing courses within their SHSM sector/stream, students will gain knowledge and learn valuable concepts in their area of focus. They will also get in-person exposure through co-ops, acquire industry-specific certifications, network and receive mentorship from SHSM-partnered industry professionals. and make valuable post-secondary connections for admission. Upon graduation, students will receive a SHSM red seal of distinction on their diploma, a record of their achievement in SHSM, and formal recognition on their Ontario Student Transcript.

How does the SHSM compare to AP or IB programs?

The International Baccalaureate (IB) is a demanding 2-year pre-university course of study designed for highly motivated secondary school students. The programs offer students enriched versions of courses offered in Canada with a focus on becoming “global citizens”. Advanced Placement (AP) classes are university-level courses offered in high school. At the end of each course, learners can choose to take the national AP exam corresponding to their class. Students who earn a sufficiently high score on their AP exam can earn college credit.


While both AP and IB programs can be valuable to certain types of students, their benefit stems mainly from making courses more challenging and enriching and allowing students to get a few early university credits (AP only). Neither program offers the industry-specific experience and resume-building opportunities that the SHSM program will offer. SHSM programs are a fantastic way for students to get a foot in the door of an industry that they would like to learn more about and pursue a career in.

Example: The Business SHSM

A student interested in the Business Specialist High Skills Major would take

·       1 English Credit

·       2 Math Credits

·       4 Business Credits (International Business 12, Financial Accounting Fundamentals

11, Financial Accounting Principles 12, Business Leadership: Management

Fundamentals 12, or Analyzing Current Economic Issues 12)

·       2 Co-op Credits


Coop placements will be structured as a 70-hour experiential learning opportunity wherein students will be matched with local businesses to learn about their daily operations and build hands-on skills. A student may be tasked with creating digital marketing/advertising materials, assisting in merchandising and inventory management, or helping with customer relations.

Students will also be required to take 2 elective training/certification courses which could include:

·       Portfolio Development

·       Fraud Prevention

·       Business Etiquette

·       Counterfeit Detection

·       Public Speaking

·       Leadership

We look forward to launching this amazing program and offering it to our students! Stay tuned for more details! 








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