find your path

  • 960x160-placement
  • Looking to make a change in your life or career?

    Start Here

How do I go back to finish my high school?

Need a job? Get your Grade 12!

“Minimum Grade 12 required”; “Secondary School preferred”. Many job postings contain this phrase, one that could make a job application process a non-starter for many.

Based on the 2011 National Household Survey, the number of people in Brantford and Haldimand-Norfolk who have not finished high school is higher than the provincial average; 24% for Brantford, and for Haldimand-Norfolk, compared to 18% for Ontario. This holds true across all age categories, from youth to older workers, and it means that many jobs are closed off to an otherwise qualified candidate.

While there is a focus on people getting their post-secondary education, for many, completing Grade 12 is a much more important goal. It could be a way to access more job opportunities, or it could be the first step to further education.

For employers, the completion of grade 12 shows a basic understanding of reading, writing and math, and is a quick way to assess a candidate’s skills, including soft-skills like commitment.

But what does this mean? If you haven’t completed grade 12, and want to go back to finish your diploma, does this mean you have to go back to the old high school and sit through phys-ed, English and chemistry classes again? Not exactly.

In Brantford, the first stop for someone looking to complete their high school education should be Grand Erie Learning Alternatives (GELA). GELA provides a number of options for people looking to go back to complete their secondary school diploma, including day school, full time, part time (morning or afternoon), night school, summer school, Independent Learning and E-learning. There are also Simcoe and Six Nations campuses of GELA, for students outside of Brantford.

All new students need to have a guidance appointment with a counsellor at GELA to determine the courses needed. Older students may qualify for “maturity credits” through Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR). Prior learning takes into account the knowledge and skills that students have acquired, in both formal and informal ways, outside school.

Brantford resident Jennifer Hill dropped out of high school in Grade 11. 
Jennifer Hill went back to high school 10 years after dropping out.

Ten years later, Jennifer was talking to her three children about what they wanted to do when they grew up. Her son told her he wanted to stay home like his mom. It was a wake-up call, and Jennifer knew she had to go back to school so her children would have someone to look up to.

She went to GELA, received eight credits through PLAR, and completed an additional six through GELA’s full-time studies. She has been accepted to Niagara College for a business accounting program, and plans to take additional courses.

“I feel so much better about myself now,” Jennifer said. “Doors are open to me and I have way more opportunities.”

Lindsay Williams is the Principal at GELA. “Talking to a returning adult who has completed their Ontario Secondary School Diploma, it is obvious that achieving this goal is considered one of the most singular personally significant accomplishments,” Williams said. “It cannot be understated how important being engaged and hopeful can be to a person. Opening a door to a better job or gaining access to post-secondary institutions brings great hope.”

For more information on GELA, visit: