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Community support workers are an essential part of the assistance networks. These dedicated individuals provide care and support to others and allow them to live a fuller and more enjoyable life. The jobs in community support work are diverse and include interactions with many different types of people and challenges. If this is an occupation you want to pursue, a community support worker course will give you the background employers are looking for as well as the skills and information you’ll need to get to know what area in community support you want to pursue.
A quick search of community support workers on the online job site, Indeed.com will reveal a number of positions from working with children to assisting with the day-to-day activities of those with various disabilities; helping seniors to create more inclusive communities for those of different abilities and/or different cultures. The benefit of a community support worker course is that it will help you learn about the different opportunities in the field as well as identifying which area(s) are right for your future career.
Titles of those in the community support work field include: Addictions worker, crisis counsellor, coordinator – Aboriginal centre, disability management, settlement worker, social service – youth development, support – disabilities, worker/co-ordinator, transition housing and many, many others. Community support workers will find themselves working in the public school system, private homes, group centres, government-funded programs, women’s shelters and other environments. Taking a community support worker course will help you understand the needs in each of these locations and what your role could look like.
Courses in the field are offered by a number of different providers from post-secondary schools to community workshop organizers. While not all jobs require a formal education, the benefits you’ll gain from a well-structured community support worker program are huge, given that you’ll learn how to interact with various types of individuals, understand a number of conditions and find your way with other students who are as interested in helping others as you are. Courses are usually offered in-person or through online learning methods.
If you want your community support worker course to prepare you for your career ahead and add education to your resume, you’ll want to find a traditional education provider’s program. This should be an organization that has instructors with hands-on experience and knowledge of working in the field as well as those who have spent hours with students to prepare them for being a community support worker. While the education component will include a great amount of theory, you’ll also want to be able to interact with fellow students and the instructors to better understand concepts and real-life situations. You’ll also want a course that includes a career planning and preparation aspects to help you land your first job in the field and a practicum component where you can apply the education in a job-style environment. The practicum aspect cannot be underestimated in terms of importance to your career as it will help you learn what types of work you will enjoy doing in the future and if you need to modify your plans.
Courses you’ll want to take include topics like psychology, mental health, behaviour management, communication, disabilities, life stages, medication and person-centred planning. It’s important to understand that some roles within the field, like that of a provincial social worker, will require advanced courses through a college or university specific to the social sciences. Fortunately, the wealth of community social worker jobs allows for a range of positions that start with limited to no education or experience and work up to those that require university degrees and advanced experience and everything in between.
As mentioned previously, not every job in community support work requires completion of formal education in the field, but many do. Looking at those same job postings on Indeed that were noted previously, some of the job qualifications include: Community Support Worker Diploma (or equivalent), non-verbal communication skills, experience with behavioural challenges, experience working with the brain-injured and disabled population, knowledge of psychosocial rehabilitation practices and a number of other skills.
While some of these skills are different and specific to, certain community support worker roles, other traits are common to the majority of roles. Some of the necessary skills that don’t come through in job postings can be understood by considering the requirements of the job itself. Top required skills include:
– Speaking and listening. Yes, of course, most everyone can speak and listen, but can you communicate thoughts clearly? Can you consider what you need to know and how the individual in front of you interprets what you say? Can you ask questions in a way that will get the information required? The ability to be clear, concise and apply active listening skills is essential to a community support worker. It’s imperative to hear a client or patient and take the time to determine what they are really saying.
– Writing and reading. There will be times when reports have to be prepared and documents read to better understand the next steps in a process or treatment or to report on an individual’s progress or challenges. As you can see, communication is the key to being a strong community support worker. Nothing is more important than understanding the people you will be working with and being able to relay that information to others as needed while also learning new things that can create positive impacts.
– Social perceptiveness plays a large part in communication. You must be able to be aware of how others are reacting and get to know why they react the way they do. You’ll also be applying a service approach in your role because interpreting how someone behaves comes as part of your desire to help them advance into new stages of independence and personal skills. Knowing your job is to support these individuals and doing what is required to help them achieve that next level is a true service role.
If you’ve been thinking of a career that helps others within the community it may be time to explore courses and programs in human services. While short workshops or one-day classes may give a good introduction, you’ll want to look into longer-term training for the best understanding of the opportunities and environments as well as to support your skills and resume for your future career.