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Collège Boréal pilots accelerated PSW training to address shortage in Kapuskasing

There's a new pilot program being offered at Collège Boréal's Kapuskasing campus that aims to address the shortage of personal support workers. The French college has 18 students enrolled in its accelerated training for PSWs. Learning is condensed into 12 weeks instead of 28, and includes practical experience and two local health care partners.

28-week program condensed into 12; with 3-days of in class learning, 2-days practical experience per week

There are 18 students enrolled in a pilot program at Collège Boréal's Kapuskasing campus, which provides accelerated training to become a personal support worker. (Supplied by Collège Boréal)

Collège Boréal is hoping its pilot program will help address the local shortage of PSWs in the northern Ontario community of Kapuskasing.

The French college is running an accelerated training course for personal support workers. The normal 28 week course is condensed into 12 weeks, with three days of in class learning and two days of practical experience each week.

Michelle Lebel, director of the campus in Kapuskasing and Hearst, says they were first approached by a representative from Sensenbrenner Hospital in Kapuskasing, to see if a partnership was possible to train PSWs in a shorter time frame.

Now the hospital and North Centennial Manor are partners in the pilot program. Both are sponsoring students within the program. 

"Our sponsors are paying for the full tuition fees and also [the student's] manuals. So it's a value of about $4,000 for each student," Lebel said.

"So that's really helped quite a bit of them to take the plunge and make the decision to become a PSW," she said.

For their practical experience the students have been hired by their sponsor to be compassionate workers. They shadow a personal support worker at either the hospital or the manor.

"Because they've been hired as compassionate workers, so aids to the PSWs, while they're working their shifts the two days at the hospital or the manor they're being paid, but also acquiring the skills needed for their practical training," Lebel said.

'Once in a lifetime opportunity'

Cassie Deslauriers is one of 18 students taking the fast tracked course.  

She says it was her sister's daily need for a personal support worker that sparked her interest in enrolling in the pilot program.

"I have seen on a couple of occasions my sister didn't have a PSW available to come and help her out because of the PSW shortage," Delauriers said.

Having her education paid for by someone else was also a big push. She calls it 'a once in a lifetime opportunity.'

The days are long. Each week students have three very full days of online theory learning and two days of practical experience shadowing a PSW at their sponsor's facility.

"Instead of having a few hours of class a day we have three full days of classes on Zoom back-to-back, so you don't get a break," Deslauriers said.

"But we're doing that to make sure we get the same practical skills and the same knowledge as you would in 28 weeks."

Deslauriers says the fast track training worked for her. 

"But you really have to give your 100 per cent. You can't miss a day cause it's like missing two weeks of a regular course," she said.

Deslauriers is doing her practical experience at Sensenbrenner Hospital in Kapuskasing. That's where she says she'd like to get a job as a PSW after the course is finished, but there are several local options for employment. Her plan is to stay in Kapuskasing.

"I want to help out my community because the way I see it, they helped me out by giving me this opportunity so I want to give back to my community."

Pilot could become full-fledged fast-track program 

Because the program is a pilot, Lebel says Collège Boréal will need to assess the results to make sure it has worked well. But she suspects the accelerated program could be included at campuses elsewhere.

"Especially as we hear all over the province of the shortage of PSWs, and having campuses all across Ontario, that it's something we'll want to repeat if it's a need and the community wants it also," she said.

"Sensenbrenner didn't need 17 PSWs, but our region really needed it, so it's really a collaboration and helping out the entire community. I'm sure everyone will be able to gain employment after the training," Lebel said.

Collège Boréal does offer its regular 28-week personal support worker program at each of its campuses across the province.

There's a new pilot program that fast-tracks the training course to become a PSW. We heard from College Boreal on how they're working with two health partners who desperately need personal support workers. We also heard from one of the students participating in the program. 7:40

About the Author

Angela Gemmill

Journalist

Angela Gemmill is a CBC journalist who has covered news in Sudbury, Ont., for 14 years. Connect with her on Twitter @AngelaGemmill. Send story ideas to angela.gemmill@cbc.ca

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