Generations of care, Human Service Work students filling sought-after profession

By Public Affairs | July 28, 2020

Fawn Herrington and her daughter Jaden Lee
Fawn Herrington and her daughter Jaden Lee

Though still a relative newcomer to the profession, OC graduate Fawn Herrington is passionate about her work in the social services field.

After navigating the end of a job as a dental assistant, she felt the need in 2014 to take an online career assessment. That pointed her in the direction of human service work, and she enrolled in Okanagan College’s Human Service Work diploma, graduating two years later in 2016. Now – witness to her mom’s career – Fawn’s daughter Jaden Lee is set to take the same two-year program this September.

“I felt so ill equipped and uneducated to deal with these challenges,” says Herrington, referring to the mountain of unanswered questions about health and social issues she was navigating with her own family in 2014. “My daughter and I spent many nights in deep discussion about how to best support her health and others her age. But I wanted to do more, learn more, be educated more and be the person and support an individual or youth could count on.”

The two-year program is available at the College’s Salmon Arm campus with an intake in the fall of 2021 in Vernon. The next cohort begins this September and registration is still open, accepting students interested in the dynamic social services career.

Herrington had a desire to know more and enrolling in the Human Service Work program gave her the tools she needed. She now works for the North Okanagan Shuswap Brain Injury Society as a life skills worker as well as a program coordinator for the Salmon Arm Stroke Recovery program. Both roles include facilitating community programs and education in the community.

“I became equipped. Every day in my career I am faced with new challenges, but now I feel I have a tool box full of skills to guide me.”

For Herrington, working as an educator and program coordinator remains a personal conviction to better understand her own family and fill the gap of skilled workers. Her daughter enrolling in the program is a sign of support for their family, but also an investment in the needs of the community.

Instructors Carol Halle-Bowering and Mark Nishihara, who have worked with the program for over a decade, talk about the professional and personal development skills that are integral to the program.

“You can’t take it any farther than where you’ve gone yourself, so personal care in our program is a huge element. Students constantly say how they can’t believe how much they’ve grown in the program and that process and change is a big part of your time here,” says Halle-Bowering. “It gives us the greatest joy to witness someone who once needed support to be able to manage on their own without it,” adds Nishihara.

When it comes to filling the need for human service workers both in Salmon Arm and across the province, it’s a direct path from classroom to workplace. With practicum hours set with local organizations and social service businesses, students are directly connected to the people and organizations that could potentially become a career for them.

Patti Thurston serves as the Executive Director of the Shuswap Family Resource and Referral Society, an organization working to support families and children of all ages throughout the Salmon Arm region. In the past decade she’s seen a shift in the demand for services, particularly in the field of mental health.

“The stigma in the younger generations around mental health has mostly been eliminated and anyone who is employed with the human sciences will be part of the most sought-after profession and need. People need skills on how to maneuver through life now more than ever, and the pandemic triples the need for people supporting people.”

“The timing of the September intake for Human Service Worker program is excellent,” notes Dawn Dunlop, Executive Director of the Canadian Mental Health Association Shuswap and Revelstoke. “The CMHA will be looking to graduates from programs like this to fill the positions we will have as a result of the new support living units being built in Salmon Arm.”

The next cohort starts in September and applications are still open. With the onset of COVID-19, help is available to acquire the necessary program entry requirements. For more information on the Human Service Work diploma at Okanagan College, including course information, cost and fees, and important dates, go here.

Tags: Human Service Work, Health and Social Development, Salmon Arm



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