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Starting a career as a Personal Support Worker is possible through affordable and accessible Ontario school board programs.


Personal Support Workers (PSWs) are a vital part of the health care sector. According to The Ontario Association of Adult and Continuing Education School Board Administration (CESBA), they are needed now more than ever. CESBA is a non-profit association that proudly represents, supports, and advocates for almost 60 school boards in Ontario with continuing education programs.

Complying with the requirements of the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Long-Term Care, Ontario school board PSW programs follow the training standards of the Ministry of Colleges and Universities. “These are high-quality programs that are very well regarded by the health care industry,” says Anita Plunkett, CESBA’s PSW Lead.

The PSW programs are some of the most accessible – they’re available through more than 23 rural and urban school boards across the province (two of which even offer courses to secondary school students). “Plus, thanks to new funding from the Province, courses are free if you enroll by March 2022, and you even receive a stipend when you are on your work placement,” Anita explains.

Suits your lifestyle

Students are enrolling in PSW programs for many reasons. “They may have put their career on hold to raise children and are now returning to it,” Anita says. “They may be new to Canada, or they could be starting their second or third career.” The programs offer flexible schedules that can suit anyone’s circumstances: Courses can be taken part-time, in the evenings, or through accelerated 5- or 6-month structures.

“If needed, school board PSW programs even offer students the chance to complete their Ontario Secondary School Diploma,” Anita adds. With generally smaller classes than most colleges, there tends to be individual support for students, who can earn additional certifications such as First Aid/CPR and Gentle Persuasive Approach. They also offer bridging courses, allowing current healthcare workers to attain PSW certification quickly. Some classrooms and labs are on-site at long-term care homes, introducing students to the industry early on.

Easily find a job

Like 95 percent of PSW school board program graduates, Kelly Sims was offered employment during her placements. A mother to young children, Kelly decided to complete the course with the hopes of furthering her career. “The PSW program is designed to make you succeed,” Kelly says. “There is so much support.”

Kelly and her classmates were offered resume writing and interview practice workshops, and the school lined up all their internships. Her instructors even helped Kelly find childcare so she could complete the accelerated course – allowing her to graduate at the top of her class. “They put my nerves at ease and made everything possible. It made me want to continue learning.”

Doing just that, Kelly completed the necessary high school credits to enroll in a pharmacy assistant program. She credits the PSW program for giving her a greater sense of purpose and igniting her passion for healthcare.

Life-changing education

Becoming a PSW through an Ontario school board is a great opportunity. “The course changed my life – it was the best thing I ever did,” Kelly adds. “You get the chance to help your community. You can do it, too. You just have to take the first step.”

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