A learning centre in Kitchener is helping train future personal service workers in a living classroom experience.
Students at St. Louis Adult Learning Centre have partnered with Fairview Seniors Community to learn on-site at the seniors' home.
Students at the classes said they are enjoying the shared learning environment and are looking forward getting into the field, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I know how important it is to have people just like this," student Paige Roberts said.
Roberts lost her nephew three years ago and saw first-hand the vital role PSWs play.
"(They) are there and able to support you and truly understand what you're going through," she said.
Roberts is one of 22 students enrolled in the PSW program. This year, the school enhanced its partnership with Fairview Seniors Community by offering the living classroom. Students work on-site at the Fairview Mennonite Seniors Home in Cambridge.
"What will be incredibly important will be the interactions with the older adults in our community," said Elaine Shantz, CEO of Fairview and Parkwood Seniors Community.
The classes give the students a blend of theoretical and practical experience.
"Modules will include health care, hygiene, hospice care, palliative care and nutrition," St. Louis principal Paul Cox said.
"It feels good to see new faces each day and actually come in and be hands-on," student Jonah Regular said.
The school hopes the program will help students build confidence and experience in a high-demand role.
"Even in March, April and May, when the world really flipped on us, there were a massive amount of phone calls coming to our school," Cox said.
Students said the need for PSWs is greater than ever.
"We need more people like this to step up and do what they need to do to get through this," Roberts said.
Others said they're ready to bring some joy into people's lives during a difficult time.
"It gives them the ability to feel that they're not alone, especially with COVID and not being able to see their family at all," student Stephanie McLorinan said.
"They need a lot of hope right now, so it's very important that we're doing this program," student Kim Wells said.
The CEO of Fairview Seniors Community said she hopes to hire the students once they graduate next year.