SHSM: What’s the big deal?

What is SHSM? Who is eligible to apply? And better yet, is SHSM at King worth it?

March 10, 2021

This article will cover what you need to know about the SHSM program, specifically in the Arts and Culture sector at R.H King Academy.

Brief introduction to SHSM

SHSM excursion to Revolution Recording Studio

SHSM is an acronym for Specialist High Skills Major, a Ministry-approved specialized program for students interested in a particular field, called ‘sectors,’ when referring to the program. All publicly funded high schools offer the SHSM program, and depending on the school, the sectors may vary. Construction, environment, business, transportation, hospitality and tourism, health and wellness, and arts and culture are just a few of the 19 sectors offered by the SHSM program. Many sectors can lead to well-paying skilled trades careers if a student is interested in pursuing such a path. Starting from grade 11 to grade 12, students can focus on a specific economic sector while also completing credit requirements for their Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD). Upon graduation, students who complete all the requirements for the program will receive a SHSM red seal embossed in their diploma. Oh, how exciting!


SHSM at R.H King

At King, SHSM is only offered in the arts and culture sector.
Although anyone at King can apply to the SHSM program, students in the Leadership: Arts and Culture (L:AC) program, a special program at King, are strongly encouraged to sign up, either prior to or upon reaching grade 11. Nevertheless, this does not prevent anyone else interested in SHSM from applying. The program is open to any student wanting to specialize in the Arts and Culture field!

To acquire the SHSM red seal, King students will have to fulfill several requirements. Find a detailed diagram of them here.

SHSM: Arts and Culture Google Classroom. Constantly updated with new opportunities!

Some of the requirements may seem tiresome, but many of them are worthwhile and enjoyable. SHSM students will need to complete at least four art credits during grades 11 and 12, an English credit, a business or Canadian studies credit, and notably, a two-credit arts co-op. Six compulsory certifications and training experiences also contribute to the achievement of the red seal. For example, WHMIS and Standard First Aid training are two mandatory certifications.

Despite all this demanding work, there are also interesting certifications that are unique to the SHSM program. ICE (Innovation Creativity Entrepreneurship) training, a significant component of SHSM, seeks to further the development of innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship in students through participation in an intensive and interactive workshop. In addition, three of the six compulsory certifications are selected by the student, meaning that there are a variety of career and arts related certifications available to choose from!

Two years ago, music students went to Revolution Recording Studios and got to work with an audio engineer. There was also an excursion to a photography workshop to learn more about the creative processes for that line of work. Other examples include, but are not limited to: songwriting, graphic design, stage combat, and song writing certifications. Feeling excited yet?

All of this seems like a huge commitment, so in the end, is it really worth it?

Is SHSM at King worth it?

Grade 11 SHSM R.H King student, Deborah Joseph, shared how her involvement in the program is shaping her high school experience. She says “I gained long-lasting experiences from alumni winning Jalani Morgan’s photography workshop to one of my favourite Assassins Creed voice actors Nathalie Toriel’s information session.” She also states that from her perspective participating in the program at King was “definitely worth it”. There are always arts related events available to SHSM students, but only the individual has the power to take advantage of the opportunities offered!

Jalani Morgan workshop at University of Scarborough

Grade 11 R.H King student, Shennel Simpson, was a SHSM student that soon realized she wanted to pursue nursing and social work instead, and dropped out of the program. Nonetheless, she had a positive experience in the time that she was apart of SHSM. “If [students] are looking for engaging activities, fun excursions, and hoping to find other like-minded people interested in the arts, then there’s no doubt that SHSM is for them.” Although Shennel is not a SHSM student anymore, she still supports the program, stating that “it helps students find their passions in certain art fields.”

Achieving valuable knowledge in the SHSM program depends on the level of commitment the individual brings to customize their experience. It also takes a very ambitious and self-driven student who is very invested in the arts to receive the red seal on their diploma.

If you are interested, King students can visit for more information on applying and the program in general. You can also contact Mr. Tufford for inquiries or ask him for the application. Talking to any of the arts teachers is another good way to learn more about the program.


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