Private career colleges offer accelerated programs

Canadian Career College increased enrollment in its PSW program in North Bay at the request of North Bay Regional Health Centre.

Model appeals to students eager to enter the workforce in the shortest possible time

Private career colleges play an important role in health-care education. Entrepreneurial by necessity, they are tuned in to the needs of the health-care community, as well as to the students they serve.

Canadian Career College, which operates campuses in Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay and Barrie, is a good example.

Recognizing an unmet need in First Nation communities, Canadian Career College partnered with the Garden River First Nation to train paramedics in Sault Ste. Marie.

Indigenous paramedics are highly sought after, explained Canadian Career College president and CEO Carlos Carvalho, because they will stay in their job for years, whereas non-Indigenous paramedics tend to move on after getting a little experience.

Many of the applicants don’t have the necessary qualifications for admission to the program, so the college arranged upgrading for them.

“We now have a partnership with the Laurentian Learning Centre in North Bay, an alternative education program of the Near North District School Board, whereby we give them access to our distance education technology to deliver instructor-led upgrading online,” said Carvalho.

Indigenous students taking the paramedics course come from the James Bay Coast, First Nation communities along the North Shore of Lake Huron and northwestern Ontario. Students are often funded by their bands, but can apply for OSAP.

Canadian Career College offers programs for addiction and mental health workers, medical office administrators, personal support workers (PSWs), pharmacy technicians and paramedics at its campuses in Sudbury and North Bay. It also offers a medical laboratory technician program in Sudbury.

Again, responding to needs in the community, Canadian Career College increased enrollment in its PSW program in North Bay at the request of North Bay Regional Health Centre and worked with the Canadian Council for Accreditation of Pharmacy Programs to offer a pharmacy technician program. “We have hospitals in Northern Ontario at risk of losing accreditation because they don’t have enough registered pharmacy technicians to serve their needs,” said Carvalho.

The accelerated model of education offered by private career colleges appeals to students who are in a hurry to get into the workforce.

“Our paramedicine program, for example, is a 1,500-hour program. Instead of the regular 12 to 18 hours per week, our program is 25 hours minimum per week with a one to eight student-teacher ratio,” said Carvalho. “Students can graduate in 13, 14 months. We believe they retain a lot more in one year than they do in a two-year program (at a community college).”

An accelerated program is also less expensive, he claims.

Students attending a private college can get a job faster and earn $30,000 to $50,000 while students at community colleges are still completing the second year of their program.

“But you need to be serious,” cautioned Carvalho. “We can’t offer Frosh Weeks, reading weeks and summers off.”

Only 10 to 15 per cent of students attending Canadian Career College are straight out of high school.

“A lot of our students have gone to college and didn’t succeed,” said Carvalho. “They got lost somewhere. A lot of them find themselves married or with kids.

They don’t have two-three years to go to college, so they come to us. They’re more focused. They want to get on with their life. Quite a few are also looking for a second career.”

The Academy of Learning Career College (ALCC) in Thunder Bay operates on the same model, offering programs for medical office administrators, medical secretaries, medical office assistants, medical receptionists, community service workers and PSWs.

ALCC boasts over 50 campuses across Canada, but has just one location in Northern Ontario. It offers a blended education model, incorporating online learning in a computer lab, as well as in-class and online instructors, depending on the program.

Mature students, who account for a preponderance of students attending the college, appreciate the accelerated nature of the programs, said Laurin Haak, admissions and student services co-ordinator. PSWs, for example, can be job-ready in six and a half months.

ALCC expects to be approved as an OSAP-funded institution by September 2018, but partners in the meantime with Northwest Employment Works and YES Employment to access funding through government programs like Second Careers on behalf of students.

“We also assist students with job search, resumes, cover letters and interview skills,” said Haak.

Progressive Training College, with campuses in Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie, focuses exclusively on training PSWs.

“There’s such a high need for PSWs in Thunder Bay – it’s just crazy,” said Kathryn Winkworth, Thunder Bay campus manager. “Every place needs PSWs. In fact, Hogarth Riverview Manor (in Thunder Bay) had to delay opening because they didn’t have enough PSWs. One hundred per cent of our graduates secure employment, with most getting offers from their placement hosts. It’s probably the hottest profession in Thunder Bay to go to school and get a job right away.”

Progressive Training College’s PSW program runs for 23 weeks, including 13 weeks in the classroom and two placements – one in long-term care and one in the community – over a 10-week period. Intakes are scheduled for January, May and September, and classes run from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm.

Requirements for admission include a high school diploma with credits in English, Math and Biology or mature student status, up-to-date immunization record and a clean police check.

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