Above: Students practice feeding classmates while wearing low-vision simulators.

PSW Program’s Living Classroom Launches Health Care Careers

MONDAY, APR. 3, 2023


ith 660 hours completed in class and on the field, you might call GELA’s Personal Support Worker (PSW) program “the longest interview of your life.” 

But it’s a fast track in disguise. 

Above: A student checks a classmate’s blood pressure.

In a blend of learning styles, Grand Erie Learning Alternatives’ (GELA) PSW program takes adult learners from the classroom to the workplace in six months. Students learn about building healthy relationships, the healthcare industry, active living, mental health, child development, and gerontology, the scientific study of old age and the process of aging.

On any given day, you may find yourself feeding, dressing or shaving your classmate’s leg. The next day, you’ll learn about mobility lifts and transfers, changing catheters and taking vitals. It’s all part of the learning experience in a Living Classroom. The program wraps up with community and long-term care placements at the John Noble Home or St. Joseph’s Lifecare Centre in Brantford, giving learners 330 hours of work experience.

If you ask Cheryl Stewart, a program coordinator at GELA, it’s not about where you start, but rather where you end up. 

“Participating in this GELA program means students earn their certificate and are ready to work in less than six months. For some, it also allows them to complete their credits to earn their Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD),” says Cheryl. 

Above: Some personal care products used in the living classroom.

The common factor is that most students in this program find jobs right away. Many are shoulder-tapped to apply at their placement before their hours are complete. Students wishing to continue their studies often bridge straight to a Registered Practical Nurse (RPN) program.

With two intakes per year, there’s lots of opportunity to kick-start your career. The Ministry of Education covers the cost of two sets of scrubs, First Aid and CPR training, Safe Food Handling, Alzheimer's and Dementia courses such as Gentle Persuasive and Assist, and Teepa Snow’s Positive Approach to Care training. Students also receive a grant for up to $16.53 per hour during their placement.

To learn more about becoming a Personal Support Worker with Grand Erie Learning Alternatives, please visit this webpage.

GELA’s adult learning programs are just one of many ways to succeed in Grand Erie. Students come away with a host of both technical and theoretical skills, ready to take lessons of well-being and belonging out of the classroom and into the workplace.

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