Contact North distant education options extend Hub’s reach

Contact North’s Gail Cook goes over some of the course options available through her organization’s distance education expertise with potential students during an open house at the M’Chigeeng Employment and Training Hub. photo by Michael Erskine

M’CHIGEENG—The M’Chigeeng Employment and Training Hub Centre held a seminar co-hosted by the distance learning facilitators Contact North this past week and the centre was bustling with trainers, employment consultants and folks seeking to learn more about the opportunities available to them to upgrade their skills and education through distance learning.

The event was organized by Jessica Gosselin, the adult learning coordinator at the Hub Centre, and she explained that the centre’s objectives were to help learners get their GED, Grade 12 and other post secondary educational opportunities “or to simply gain employment, if that is their goal.”

To that end, the Hub Centre brings together a group of counsellors with different specializations that can assist community members in meeting their goals. Many of those counsellors gave short presentations on what their programs have to offer, while Contact North was on hand to illustrate the many ways that the distance learning facilitator can assist with making educational and training dreams come true.

“The Hub Centre offers an easy transition for you,” noted Contact North’s Gail Cook. “Our main centre is located at Kenjegewin Teg Educational Institute here in M’Chigeeng, but we have operations in Wikwemikong and Gore Bay as well.”

Contact North can eliminate many of the barriers that face those wishing to receive skills training and educational upgrading, especially those posed by distance and geography, pointed out Ms. Cook. Although the organization does not deliver courses itself, it has honed the art of providing distance education to a high degree.

“Contact North has partnerships with most colleges and universities,” noted Ms. Cook. “With over 200 training institutions, there are over 18,000 courses available online.”

Ms. Cook noted that Contact North does not simply assist individuals trying to fill any gaps in their employment skills, but offers access to everything from lifting basic skills to accessing different health and safety options that are needed to enter various industries and trades, but not everything has to do with employment, as there are a lot of general interest courses available as well.

“Not everything suits everybody,” said Ms. Cook, “we try to provide whatever suits you.”

Through Contact North, students are able to take many courses on a schedule that works for them. “There are a lot of things that can get in the way,” she noted. “Some people have young children at home, you might have a job that keeps you from taking the courses you need to get the job you really want.” With Contact North, most courses can be taken at anytime. “You might have to wait until the children are in bed, late at night, maybe you do your best work on the weekends or work at home,” she went on to suggest. “Whatever it is you want to learn, there is a course for just about everything, and many of them are free from the institutions themselves.”

Ms. Cook noted that too many people look at the gaps they are facing in their education and think “I can’t go back to high school, I only have Grade 9, the road seems so long,” she said. “There are a lot of ways to shorten that path and there is something for everyone.”

Ms. Cook pointed out that there is one student who is taking their Masters of Psychology through Contact North. “She told us ‘this is what I am interested in’,” said Ms. Cook.

“Sometimes I feel it is hard to get going at home, there are so many distractions,” noted Ms. Gosselin. The Hub Centre can help with that, providing a place away from home to take the distance learning classes.

The Hub Centre boasts a good number of computer workstations that students can access. “Even if it is only half a day, or five hours a week, we can get you set up,” she said. “Half the battle is getting here and getting started. We can help you get on track and in getting started.”

When people think distance learning, they think it is all done in isolation, but that doesn’t have to be the case, noted Ms. Cook. Many classes have an interactive component and are actually live classes that are happening online with a large group of people.

“Those people might be from all over the world,” said Ms. Cook. “It is interesting to get the perspective and the different point of view of someone from half way around the world.”

Among the services offered at the Hub Centre are the M’Chigeeng Adult Learning Program.

Ms. Gosselin explained that the M’Chigeeng Adult and Continuing Education Program component of the Hub Centre “aims to provide local adults with the opportunity to improve their literacy skills. We work to ensure that everyone has the right tools necessary to be successful in terms of employment, everyday life, and in furthering their education. Our program is created to ensure that the members of our community are successful. In working with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU), Ontario Native Literacy Coalition (ONLC) and the Opportunity HUB staff, we ensure that our learners are being given the support they need in order to achieve success.”

As to who can access the services, the field is broad. “Our program is targeted to any adult who is seeking employment, post secondary, secondary school credits or independence,” said Ms. Gosselin. “We accept individuals who are 19 years of age or older. We help our learners obtain literacy skills needed for their specified goal path and our program is developed to provide learners with multiple options of learning. We create learning plans to suit their needs and goal direction.”

Ms. Gosselin can be reached at 705-377-5362 Ext: 225, or by email at adultlearning@mchigeeng.ca.

Ed Bisson is an employment councillor who has recently been given responsibility for the Local Delivery Mechanism (LDM), whose purpose is to “assist our clientele to increase their skills and abilities and work experience by preparing them to complete training and or enter or re-enter the workforce with a goal of securing full time employment.”

The LDM services include resume and cover letter preparation; online job searches; employment insurance applications online; onsite training; employment counselling; as well as training and employment supports.  

The LDM is responsible for the purchase of training, with a focus on meeting the needs of the clientele and the labour market, explained Ms. Bisson. Types of training that can be purchased include vocational, skills upgrading and apprenticeships.

“At LDM, our job is to break down the barriers to employment,” noted Mr. Bisson. The tools in their work chest include finding job opportunities with the objective to provide clients with job opportunities that will lead to continuing employment; finding job creation partners, with a views to supporting the creation of sustainable employment opportunities in the community. “We can create incremental and meaningful work opportunities for clients with activities that help develop the community and local economy,” noted Mr. Bisson: the Youth Employment Program (YEP) provides meaningful work experience for the youth, which will in turn increase opportunities for long-term employment upon completion of academic studies; self employment assistance, which assists persons who are either unemployed or out of school to become self-sufficient through the development, operation and sustainability of a viable business; workplace based training that assists employers to meet their current or future skills needs through negotiated training contributions, retaining employees whose skills have been made redundant through technological or market changes and encouraging the provision of the on-the-job training for employees; targeted wage subsidies, which offer a temporary wage subsidy to employers as an incentive to hire individuals who may not be ordinarily considered for employment due to barriers such as limited work or a disability; driver’s licencing, by providing assistance for eligible members to obtain their class G licence, which is aimed at individuals who experience the lack of a licence as a barrier to obtain employment; mobility and relocation assistance, which assists persons with financial support to attend job interviews and to re-locate for new employment; training and income supplements, where funding is provided for the following services providing that the individual eligibility and sponsorship criteria guidelines are adhered to: training allowances, rental allowances, child care costs, tuition, special costs, travel off-reserve, rural travel and living away from home allowance. 

The LDM also works through apprenticeships by encouraging employers to hire and retain apprentices for the donation of their apprenticeship program and with persons with disabilities through programs designed to help people with disabilities prepare for and obtain employment or self-employment.

Post secondary education councillor Tammy Gordon delivered a small talk on educational funding, although the deadline will have arrived on this edition’s publication date (March 30). Ms. Gordon stressed that it was very important that students seeking funding for education fill out the applicable forms and that priority is given to students applying for funding for the first time.

The councillor advised that it is not necessary to apply for funding immediately after high school, in fact, for some people that might be counterproductive. “Wait until you know what it is that you want to do,” she suggested. “Find something that you are passionate about.”

Ms. Gordon can be reached at 705-377-5362 ext. 221.