Historically, Grade 9 has been a tough year for Nova Scotia students, so educators are targeting that grade with a new program.

Education Minister Ramona Jennex says the Discovering Opportunities program will help prepare students for life after the classroom.

“We know that Grade 9 is a critical transition year when students must make key decisions about high school,” says Jennex.

“For some reason there seems to be a little disconnect and that is the time period we find from research that our students are disengaging from school, some of them leave school at that point.”

The program is aimed at getting students ready for life after the classroom by linking learning to the workplace through work placements. It will be similar to the O2 program already offered at the high school level.

“They're learning to communicate with real professionals, they're asking questions, they're building confidence,” says Carol Logan, director of human resources at the Prince George Hotel in Halifax.

Logan has witnessed that through students like Wyatt Albert, who just completed a 100-hour placement at the hotel through his school.

Albert says the experience helped him realize he wanted to be a cook.

“Practical cooking skills, like knife skills and hygiene. I also learned just how to work in a cooking environment, it’s a lot different than cooking at home,” he says.

Logan says the partnership is just as beneficial to the businesses as it is to the students.

“The labour market, as we know it, is not going to be there in the years to come, so this is one great initiative to start to build these relationships,” says Logan.

The program will cost about $70,000 to start up and will be launched in three different schools across the province in the upcoming school year. 

Those schools have yet to be chosen, but they will be chosen from three different school boards - Halifax Regional, Annapolis Valley and the Strait Regional.

Jennex says the education department hopes to eventually offer the program in every school across the province.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Jacqueline Foster