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A new partnership between Okanagan College and School District No. 23 will give Grade 12 students a head start in post-secondary education as a certified Education Assistant.
For recent graduate Tiffany Walker, an early start in the Education Assistant certificate program has helped her realize a dream she’s long been chasing.
“I’ve always loved being with children and once I found out there was an established route to becoming an Education Assistant, I jumped on the opportunity – I’m very happy I did,” says Walker.
Like Walker, high school students who have excelled in their studies can apply to be a dual-credit student in their Grade 12 year. Once accepted, the program will allow students to split their final academic year, spending the first half completing their Grade 12 studies and the second half studying and working towards completion of an Education Assistant certificate from Okanagan College.
“An Education Assistant is someone that works with children with exceptionalities in cognitive abilities, physical challenges, behavioral challenges, autism and related disorders,” says Valerie Banks, Program Coordinator at Okanagan College. “EAs help children with everything from homework to behaviour.”
The four and a half-month, full-time program is offered at George Elliot Secondary School in Lake Country. It gives students the foundation, knowledge and experience to work in British Columbia school districts as well as with special needs adults in group homes and individual families who have children that need assistance.
“School District No. 23 approached us to form a dual-credit partnership and help bring forward the next generation of Education Assistants,” says Banks. “The demand for EAs is high within Kelowna’s school district, which requires all EAs to be certified.”
School District No. 23 is actively involved in the program and works closely with the College to connect students with practicums and educate them on career opportunities in the district.
“The manager of Human Resources from the School District hosts a workshop to talk to EA students about the hiring process. Each student knows exactly how to apply for jobs and how the process of working with the School District goes,” says Banks. “The School District also assists with assigning a month-long practicum to each student to ensure they get real experience and are ready for the workforce.”
“I did my practicum at AS Matheson and it was the best part about the entire program,” says Walker. “The way the program and practicum were laid out made me confident that I had a solid foundation to really do well in the practicum.”
The Education Assistant certificate program is currently accepting dual-credit applications until Sept. 29 for the Jan. 2018 intake. There are also seats available for the general public as well. To find out more information about the program and requirements, please visit okanagan.bc.ca/ea.