Manitoba students will soon be able to specialize in harm reduction skills and mental-health training at a unique online college based in Brandon.
The LINKS Institute, a newly approved private vocational institute, is now accepting applications for its first intake for two different community support worker certificates this summer.
"What’s going to happen (post-pandemic) is we’re going to hit rebuild mode, and that’s going to include the ramping up of existing services, the need for more workers, increased demand from the public on mental health and social services," said John Jackson, president and CEO of the LINKS Institute, from Brandon.
A registered psychiatric nurse, Jackson said he has seen firsthand the key skills required to work in non-profit services to support people living with substance use disorders, housing insecurity and mental health concerns.
He recently resigned from his post as executive director at Brandon’s Samaritan House Ministries to start the career college.
Jackson said he has designed courses that teach students everything he was looking for in candidates when hiring in the field — the ability to build good interpersonal relationships, approach patients in a non-judgmental manner, and recognize different mental-health concerns, barriers and addictions.
Having observed the challenges post-secondary institutes have faced in shifting to remote learning over the last year, he said he decided consistent and accessible online training was the best way to deliver such instruction.
Jackson said he believes there is a "high chance" that passionate proponents for supervised consumption sites in Manitoba will be successful in lobbying governments to launch such facilities in the coming years.
"I’m hoping programs like mine might help to prepare that workforce," he added, noting his program is unique in that it’s a certificate, while other schools offer degrees and diplomas that include training on related subjects.
The career college’s first intake will begin July 5. Both certificates were designed to take six months to complete, with nine intensive courses each in addition to a practicum requirement.
Earlier this year, Winnipeg city council approved exploring all options to create a supervised consumption site. The Pallister government, however, remains steadfast in its opposition to the sites.
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.