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New innovative program addresses significant shortage of educational staff

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The Catholic school board in Simcoe Muskoka is the first in the province to offer an innovative program to address the overwhelming shortage of educational assistants (EA).

The Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board (SMCDSB), in partnership with the Ministry of Labour, offers the Educational Assistant Apprenticeship program, allowing EA supply staff to work in schools while becoming fully qualified EAs.

Sarah Hoggarth is one of roughly 30 applicants through the school board.

"For 15 years, I've wanted to go to school, but I just haven't been able to afford school and not working," she says. "I could apply for a full-time job or long-term occasional spots, and without this program, I just wouldn't have been able to do that."

"Educational assistant is a huge supportive role for our highest needs students in the school, and there has been a shortage over COVID, and we have a hard time some days filling positions," says Brad Shoreman, Adult Continuing and Community Education SMCDSB principal.

The apprenticeship program offers on-the-job training and in-class technical instruction.

Those interested in applying can do so at any time. The program can take two to three years to complete to become an EA anywhere in Ontario.

Shoreman adds that other school boards are working to implement the same program with hopes of recruiting more staff to fill the need.

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