CNC Community and School Support (CASS) instructor Valerie Waughtal has been teaching CNC’s Community Support Worker (CWS) Certificate program since it began in 1986. Since then, a lot of changes have occurred over the years in both the field and program.
“This program was developed at the request of community support worker employers,” Valerie said.
The purpose of CASS program is to help support staff develop the skills, knowledge and attitudes necessary for supporting people with developmental disabilities or special needs.
The CSW certificate is for those who work with, or want to work with, children and adults in a community setting, such as community living agencies and contractors, respite care, supported employment settings, residential support, life skills, leisure and day programs.
“The certificate has huge value for the students and in the community,” Valerie said.
When Tranquille, a major B.C. institution in Kamloops, closed and residents moved back to their home communities, a significant number of group homes opened and support staff were hired.
“But most staff had virtually no training,” Valerie said. “Many people at the time were working shifts. Some were live-in workers, for up to four days at a time, and couldn’t attend classes. They needed much more flexibility.”
CNC responded to the needs of the employers, the support workers and clients by developing a comprehensive, distance education program.
“Everything was done by mail and phone,” Valerie said. “We had the first 1-800 number at the College and the first answering machine. We did everything from packaging and sending students their books, to responding to their learning needs through these means.”
Throughout the years, the program incorporated new technology as it developed. Today, students complete courses through the online learning platform Moodle.
Still, the program has remained flexible. Students can start in the fall or spring, and can take the program part or full-time. They can also contact instructors for support any time they need: online, by phone, or by dropping into their offices.
CNC’s CSW instructors also go to great lengths to make the program accessible to all.
“Whatever a student needs, we try to accommodate them,” Valerie said. “One student, for example had no computer or electricity and had to skidoo across a lake to a fax machine to make contact with us.”