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Support worker training program sets up shop in Elmira

Whether you’re just graduating high school or looking for a career change, there’s never been a better time to enter the healthcare field. The St. Louis Adult Learning and Continuing Education Centre is bringing its personal support worker training program to Elmira next month to be its third satellite campus.

Katelyn Pellegrini and Melody Shewmon are training to be personal support workers at St. Louis Adult Learning and Continuing Education Centre in Kitchener. The PSW pilot program will launch in Elmira next month.[Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
Katelyn Pellegrini and Melody Shewmon are training to be personal support workers at St. Louis Adult Learning and Continuing Education Centre in Kitchener. The PSW pilot program will launch in Elmira next month. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
The pilot program will run for nine months part-time. The program is in partnership with Elmira District Community Living.

Lyn Garnett, program manager for the PSW program, says they’ve had classes in Guelph and Fergus but they haven’t been able to get enough students for the Fergus location.

“So then we decided why don’t we move a bit?” Garnett said. “We get a lot of students from Elmira, Listowel and Palmerston and often we get a lot of potential students from those areas especially if it wasn’t in Kitchener. With the winter sometimes that prevents them from coming to do our program just because of the driving.”

She said they also chose Elmira because of the nursing homes which could benefit from their students doing placements. They’re looking at running the first class with 20 students and there are already at least five students committed to it. An information and registration night will be April 21 at 6 p.m. at Arc Industries.

“I hope there’s always demand for us to stay in Elmira and that we do get people from all the surrounding areas and it becomes our third campus,” Garnett said.

Laurie Thomson, human resources manager at EDCL said they get a good mixture of personal support workers and developmental service workers from different backgrounds.

“Right out of high school you can come to this,” Thomson said. “People who have been out of high school or are looking for a career change. … We’ve had a number of people come to us a little bit more mature, but perhaps they’ve been laid off from another career and have gone back to school to learn a new skill to be successful in the work force. Maybe some women who have been home for a number of years raising children and are looking to get back into the workforce.”

Joining forces with St. Louis made sense for both parties because they’ve always had a good relationship with them through offering placements in Elmira for their students. They often get the students who are from Elmira or other rural locations.

“Being in a rural setting sometimes it’s hard to recruit people that come in with some kind of qualifications, whether it’s a PSW or DSW designation for employment here because they don’t have the training in the area or people that come into the area our bus system isn’t great if they don’t drive,” Thomson said. “It’s nice for recruitment purposes that we can train people that are local or from other small rural communities, such as St. Jacobs or Milverton or Millbank, Wallenstein.”

She said many of the students who have come through the placement at EDCL and are local have stayed on and been hired right out of school. They’re able to get the hands on experience they need to understand what the sector is all about.

“When you work with people that are developmentally or intellectually challenged then it’s a little bit different than just doing personal care,” Thomson said. “If it’s something they’re interested in pursuing as a career they already know a lot about our association, know a lot about the field from doing their placement and then see if it’s a good fit for them and it benefits us because it helps with our recruitment as well.”

Personal support workers do work such as assisting with all aspects of personal care, bathing, toileting, feeding, and hygiene. They often work in seniors’ homes. Development support workers go beyond that, helping communicate what their clients want and getting them involved in the community.

“We promote community inclusion and being part of the community, how to offer people choices. We’re not here telling people what to do,” Thomson said.

She hopes there will be plenty of interest in the program starting in Elmira because she said it’s a satisfying career to have and there’s always a need for more workers in the healthcare industry.

“It’s making a difference in people’s lives,” Thomson said. “You’re there to support them and assist them to have the best life possible according to what their hopes are, what their goals are. We’re working in their homes assisting them, it’s not again people like our employees telling them what they think they should be doing.”

Garnett notes they get students from age 18 right up to 64. For some people it’s a bridge to something else and for others it’s about following a career path for themselves.

“PSWs are going to be in great demand,” Garnett said. “Their role is always changing and they are basically the front line workers right now so it’s actually a good time to be in a PSW program. Once they’re done there’s so many options where they can work.”

The program starts on May 4 for four nights a week at the EDCL Church Street location. For more information contact St. Louis at 519-745-1201, ext. 288.

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