Preparing Personal Support Workers For Tomorrow’s Needs, Today

Amid an aging population in Ontario, the demand for personal support workers (PSW) is growing. According to the provincial government’s Ontario Population Projections Update, the number of seniors aged 65 and over is projected to almost double in the next 20 years. By 2041, almost 25 per cent of Ontario’s population will be elderly. To accommodate the demand, the number of PSW vacancies across the province is set to increase. And, at Evergreen College we’re already seeing an increase in requests for skilled PSW graduates. Recently, students preparing for graduation in Evergreen’s PSW Certificate Program were contacted about employment opportunities with two health-care agencies in Toronto, as well as with one private client. At the College, our goal is to prepare students for the real world of work. And, when employers knock on our door looking for the latest crop of graduates, we know we’ve succeeded. When an employer hires an Evergreen PSW graduate, Margaret McLeish, Evergreen’s PSW Program Manager, says, “They can expect to be met with an individual who has all of the possible training a PSW can have, along with some extra certifications.” The College’s PSW Certificate Program gets students job-ready in just 31 weeks, which is the equivalent of one academic year. We prepare students for a rewarding career in the booming healthcare industry by giving them a well-rounded education in an all-encompassing, skill-building environment. Currently, there are approximately 60 students enrolled in various stages of our PSW Certificate program. While most are mature students, they come from a variety of career paths. Some have been employed in health care previously, while others are undergoing a career transition into the industry. Our students come from diverse backgrounds but with one common goal: to become job-ready and enter the workforce with the skills needed to succeed. During the course of our program, we educate students on providing care, support and assistance to clients who are aging, chronically ill and/or have physical disabilities. As future PSWs, our students are prepared to assist clients and their families with many tasks including meal preparation, hygiene, bathing, dressing and attending to household duties that clients can no longer manage on their own. Successful graduates of our program will receive their First Aid & CPR certifications, Public Health Food Handler Certificate and Alzheimer’s Society Training certificate. Students are also prepared with training under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, as well as additional education on Palliative Care and Dementia. Our classes are taught by experienced instructors who are specialists in their field. Our faculty is committed to preparing students for the workforce, and teaching the skills that are demanded in today’s competitive job market. “We have excellent teachers with a long industry of retention, little staff turnover and small class sizes,” McLeish says. “We make sure that everything is covered. We want students to have everything we can give them.” A key component of the PSW Certificate program is the student placement opportunity, whereby students work for five weeks in a long-term care facility. Through this initiative, students obtain real-world work experience, under the supervision of trained industry professionals. Upon graduation, they are ready for long-term careers in a variety of workplace settings including retirement and nursing homes, group homes, hospice centres, day care centres and as self-employed PSWs for private clients. From our experienced, dedicated instructors to our committed Career Services team, Evergreen College ensures students achieve success. Our Career Services Program helps students get the job and career they’ve always wanted, with interview technique workshops, networking tips, leads on employment and more. In addition to technical knowledge, students are encouraged to develop punctuality, reliability and other soft skills required in the industry. McLeish says, “Many graduates will get a job working for an agency, going from home to home to care for patients. They may be the only person an elderly person sees in a day or in a week; they have to be reliable and punctual.” McLeish enforces that students must also maintain a positive attitude, and be willing to take on extra work to succeed in both the program and their PSW careers. “I can teach a student how to give someone a bath or wash the floor, but I cannot teach them attitude.” Instead, the College focuses on role-modelling appropriate attitude. “We try to show them-through assignments-what they should do, and guide them through it,” she says. “We focus on scenarios that show them how to say and do things that encourage a positive attitude, and make the client feel in charge of their own life.” Of the three prospective PSW employers that contacted Evergreen, one visited the College and spoke with graduating students directly. A representative from the health-care organization was present to give out information, collect resumes and answer any questions students had about employment. The response from students was positive, with many enthusiastic about their upcoming graduation in September. At Evergreen College, our programs are taught by industry professionals who know what success looks like. The knowledge and skills they bring to the classroom is real-world experience. Students are coached daily on employment success behaviours, and they come to class ready to work. At Evergreen, our focus is on career success. We expect the same professional, employable skills of our students that their future employers will. This gets students job ready as they learn to apply critical thinking, leadership, problem solving and other soft skills in the classroom and beyond. All of our students have a desire to excel in the exciting, stimulating environment that Evergreen offers. In addition to our PSW Certificate program, we offer a range of diploma and certification programs designed to prepare students for today’s job market. When employers contact us to hire an Evergreen graduate, we know that they recognize our career-readiness training, and the skills we instill in our students that prepare them for the workforce of tomorrow, today. Preparing Personal Support Workers for tomorrow’s needs, today