2 Ontario colleges offer free personal support worker courses to address shortage

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Two Ontario colleges have partnered with a home-care services company to offer free courses that certify personal support workers in a bid to address a shortage of the employees during the pandemic.

Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ont., is working with ParaMed Home Health Care to launch a 20-week condensed course next month. Trios College has teamed up with the same company to offer similar training in three eastern Ontario communities.

Conestoga said the costs of tuition for the course are being covered by ParaMed and a government grant.

“These students will benefit from this innovative and accessible PSW program delivery,” Sarah Pottier, chair of the college’s personal support worker and supportive-care program said in a statement.

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Students taking the course sign an employment contract to work with ParaMed for a year after graduation, Pottier said.

ParaMed said it decided to work with the college in an effort to build its pool of employees.

“We have a shortage of workers,” said Michael Bournon, the company’s director of operations. “Traditionally, there has been a shortage of workers, the pandemic has exasperated that.”

Bournon said applicants for the courses don’t have to have a health-care background.

“It really is an opportunity to help the community as a whole and increase the number of people working in the field,” he said.

Trios said on its website that 26 spots were available to obtain free personal support worker training, with employment at ParaMed after graduation.

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The Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which has personal support workers among its members, said more qualified personal support workers are urgently needed.

OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas said the union has been asking the province to offer free college courses for the workers to help protect vulnerable residents during the pandemic.

“If you think about all the money they’ve put into COVID-19, people’s tuition is not a big bill for the government,” Thomas said in an interview.

“But it could make a world of difference for some people who would want to go back to college.”

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