Indigenous students among those targeted for health care training program in northern Ontario

The Ontario government has announced it will provide more than $ 10.6 million to train 500 people for health care jobs in Northern Ontario.

At a press conference on Thursday, January 6, it was revealed that program funding would be used to train students for jobs in demand in hospitals and long-term care homes and for those seeking employment. as home care providers.

Training will be offered at Confederation College’s eight campuses located in northern Ontario.

Provincial funding will cover tuition and textbooks for those seeking careers as medical laboratory assistants, personal support workers and home support workers.

For program participants who qualify, they could also receive up to $ 3,000 to cover transportation, childcare or other living expenses.

All program participants will benefit from placement and ongoing support after graduation.

Greg Rickford, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, realizes the importance of having many Aboriginal participants in the program.

“We have heard more and more from health authorities led by Aboriginal leaders about the need and demand for Aboriginal health human resources,” said Rickford. “It goes without saying that, especially in Northwestern Ontario, Indigenous people represent the most important potential segment of the workforce that could be mobilized to meet demands in various sectors, including care. health.

Rickford, however, said the government had not set any sort of target as to how many of the 500 participants in the program would ideally be Indigenous.

“I would say as much as possible,” he said. “I’m not going into the details of the thresholds because we can’t force people into those streams.”

In addition to various First Nations in northern Ontario, the program will aim to attract participants from many communities with large numbers of Aboriginal residents. These are Geraldton, Nipigon, Thunder Bay, Dryden, Kenora, Sioux Lookout, Atikokan, Terrace Bay, Marathon, Emo, Fort Frances, Red Lake and Manitouwadge.

Confederation College President Kathleen Lynch said about a quarter of the college’s students are Indigenous.

“Our Aboriginal youth are a growing population here, so we are helping them participate in this program,” she said. “And they still represent almost 25% of our learners. We would expect that it would probably be the same percentage who would participate in this kind of project.

Lynch said Confederation College already has 16 partnerships in place that will participate in the training program.

Six of these partnerships come from Aboriginal organizations. They are Oshki Wenjack, Sioux Lookout First Nation Health Authority, Windigo, Wiigwas Elder and Senior Care, the Sioux Lookout Area Native Management Board and a new long-term care home. at Grassy Narrows.

Lynch said additional partnerships will be announced soon.

“We have Indigenous and non-Indigenous health care providers across Northwestern Ontario,” she said. “We have the largest number of First Nations in our region, so they are partnering with us to train people so that they have a reliable workforce. “

Health services across the province have been shown throughout the pandemic to be understaffed.

“The sooner we can train people to help them, like any other employer, they need people,” Lynch said.

And there will be a growing need for Aboriginal staff.

“There are a number of plans to expand long-term care homes in the Northwest to Aboriginal-specific homes that provide culturally appropriate care,” Lynch added. “So we are also working in partnership with these organizations to help them anticipate their workforce needs. “

Rickford was one of three ministers who took part in Thursday’s press conference. He was joined by Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labor, Training and Skills Development, and Rod Phillips, Minister of Long-Term Care.

“With this investment, we are closing the critical workforce shortage in healthcare and working for workers in Northern Ontario, training hundreds of people with meaningful and rewarding careers,” said McNaughton .

Phillips said he believes the program announced Thursday will contribute to a better long-term care system.

“Training and hiring additional staff is part of our government’s plan to fix long-term care and improve the quality of care residents receive and the quality of life they experience,” he said. -he declares. “This investment will help 500 Ontarians start new careers in health care. I have no doubt that many of them will bring their much needed new skills to long term care homes right here in Northern Ontario.

Those interested in the program can email [email protected] or call (807) 475-6353.

By Sam Laskaris, Local Journalism Initiative reporter,,

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