Manitoba

Red River College offers new courses to help address pandemic staffing shortages in education system

Manitoba's education workforce has faced strain for months due to pandemic-related absences among teachers and educational assistants, but the province hopes a new college program will help fill the gaps.

Short-term crash courses aim to get more substitute teachers, educational assistants into strained system

Manitoba Education, the Manitoba School Boards Association and school divisions identified a need for more staff in the fall amid pandemic-related absences. Red River College is teaming up with Manitoba Association of School Superintendents to offer two courses meant to get more substitute teachers and educational assistants into the workforce. (Halfpoint/Shutterstock)

Manitoba's education workforce has faced strain for months due to pandemic-related absences among teachers and educational assistants, but the province hopes a new college program will help fill the gaps.

Red River College and the Manitoba Association of School Superintendents have come up with two condensed online training programs that will help get more substitute teachers and educational assistants into the system.

"We are proud to work with our partners in the K-12 system to create solutions to address educational continuity and the pressing staffing needs identified by the task force as we navigate the home stretch of this unprecedented school year," said Fred Meier, CEO of Red River College, in a provincial news release on Friday.

The Basic Classroom Skills for Limited Teaching Permit Holders program will provide people hired on a temporary basis with skills to teach in the classroom, the province said.

Meanwhile the Educational Assistant Essentials Program will take new EAs through an entry level crash course to prepare them to go on to work under teachers.

The new Red River College courses will be online and available to people across the province in French and English. Each will take about 30 hours to complete.

The new courses won't impact the standard hiring models already in place at the school division level, though divisions may refer qualified applicants to the Red River College courses, the province said. Job openings are available on the Manitoba School Boards Association website.

Education Minister Cliff Cullen said the province is supporting the creation of the courses as part of a $44-million commitment "to assist alongside hiring more teachers and staff and ensuring a safe and healthy learning environment for all students, teachers and staff."

In-class learning resumed in September, though high schools have largely adopted blended models with students alternating days in school and online.

Since then there have been a small number of confirmed outbreaks in schools where at least two students in close contact contracted COVID-19 around the same time. There have been hundreds more cases involving educational staff and students, though Public Health has suggested the vast majority stemmed from exposures in the community.

Absenteeism rates increased through the fall as Public Health has instructed close contacts of positive cases to get tested and isolate while awaiting results.

The intake period for the Red River programs meant to address this begins Jan. 18.

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