THUNDER BAY - Joshua Thompson, a personal support worker with St. Joseph’s Care Group, faced many challenges before landing in his new position, but at the end of the day, all the hard work has paid off.
“Every night, sure I’m tired, I’m sore, but the rewards in this line of work, money can’t touch it,” he said. “I feel good every time I go to bed and I look forward to coming back when I wake up.”
Thompson is one of 30 graduates from the Anishinabek Employment and Training Services Program. The training program was launched last year and is a partnership between St. Joseph’s Care Group and Confederation College to offer condensed personal support worker and food service worker training programs.
“It was a wonderful opportunity,” Thompson said. “I am very glad that I have taken it and then found employment like four days later. And St. Joe's has been wonderful to us. I love it here. It’s a lot of fun.”
The spring programs were launched in May, 2016 and 44 students participated. John DeGiacomo, executive director of the AETS, said the program provides opportunities for First Nations citizens who have the capacity to work in the health sector.
DeGiacomo added that there is a growing need for personal support workers and food service workers throughout the region.
“Certainly in Northern Ontario there is and in Thunder Bay absolutely,” he said. “We know as an example with just one employer there is 60 vacancies for personal support workers right now. With the help of funders we hope to bridge that gap and have more trainees go through a program like this.”
Lisa Beckwick, acting vice president, people, mission, and values with St. Joseph’s Care Group, added Thunder Bay will see an even greater need for PSWs when the Hogarth Riverview Manor opens.
“This program certainly assists us,” she said. “We have gained several personal support workers from this program, as well as food service workers. And we hope we will be able to continue this type of program moving forward.”
The culturally aware training program can be completed within 21 months and graduates receive a provincially recognized certificate to work in the health care field. Accommodations and meals are provided to students who come from communities across the region. DeGiacomo said all the students who successfully completed the program have found gainful employment in their field.
Thompson, who is from Lake Helen, there was a strong sense of community created by his fellow students, which really helped him excel in the program.
“The hardest part was being away from home,” he said. “The little things we had, opportunities to spend time together, and grow as a unit and became a family and were very supportive to one another. I think that was probably the greatest opportunity they gave. If it wasn’t for my fellow students, I don’t know, there was a couple of times where I was ready to give up, and they carried me through.”
Thompson said he wanted to move into the personal support worker profession because he was looking for something different.
“I was really done working outside or working in factories or just working dead end jobs,” he said. “Here was a chance to do better for myself and if I do decide to go back to school, I can advance as well.”
Beckwick added that hiring graduates from within Northern Ontario also helps create a stronger sense of community among the clients they serve, as familiar faces will often stay.
“When we hire people from Northwestern Ontario there is a much greater retention rate,” she said. “In working with this project, we were also aware that a number of PSWs and food service workers may go back to their home communities and that services the region, so that works for us as well.”