The first 35 students in a local program to train more Personal Support Workers (PSW) have graduated and are now ready to begin working with vulnerable and special needs people in our communities.

The program began in October 2020 and was offered in English in Vankleek Hill and Cornwall.  An additional 44 PSW’s, including 20 trained in French, will graduate from the program in June 2021.

The PSW Program was organized by the Employment Services Centre of Prescott-Russell (CSEPR) in partnership with Job Zone d’emploi and the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CSDBEO) and made possible through funding from the Skills+ Ontario project from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development.

The majority of the recent graduates have been hired or are on their way to finding employment as PSW’s.

“You as a person will be more than a care worker, you will need to be a caring soul,” said CSEPR Executive Director Caroline Arcand to the graduates during a press conference on February 18.

“I was looking for a meaningful career that gave me a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment,” said Ira Sharma Chhibber of Vankleek Hill, who is one of the new PSW’s and is seeking employment.

Chhibber worked as a human resources manager at a hospital in India before emigrating to Canada.  She said that after arriving here, she wanted to help people after the experience of caring for her own elderly parents.

“This opportunity came to me as a blessing.”

Noëlla Bissonnette of Cornwall graduated and is now working at St. Joseph’s Villa long-term care facility there.

“I finally got my career at 52, better late than never!” she said.

PSW’s encounter a high level of stress and responsibility in their work, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made training for a healthcare-related job even more challenging.

“Everything was well organized,” said Chhibber about her training.  Neither she nor Bissonnette expressed any concern about entering the workplace while COVID-19 outbreaks are a reality in many long-term care facilities.

Bissonnette said that she decided to enter the PSW program after losing her previous job due to the economic effects of the pandemic.  She said that her focus was on getting her training hours completed and not feeling threatened by the pandemic.

“You’ve got to keep going,” she said.

Seven of the recent graduates completed their training hours at Maxville Manor.

“They are wonderful, amazing, and compassionate people to our seniors,” said Nursing Coordinator Sandra Michaud.