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St. Albert and ICAN Making a Positive Difference in Health Care Through Partnership

Pictured are the six PSW students at St. Albert selected to be a part of the partnership program with ICAN.
back row left to right - Students Stephanie Spadafore, Alex Foucault and Principal Karl Dreger
front row left to right -Students Kylie Gervais and Amy Winn, teacher Dawn-Marie Brunet, and students Lydia Bahati and Affaf Javaid

April 4, 2013 - The ICAN Independence Centre and Network in Sudbury is a community- based non-profit organization that provides services, resources and support for people with disabilities.  St. Albert Adult Learning Centre is a school in the Sudbury Catholic District School Board that offers adult and continuing education programs with the purpose of preparing individuals to succeed in today’s workplace through a variety of programs and initiatives. One of the programs that St. Albert offers is a Personal Support Worker (PSW) program. While these two organizations differ greatly in their mandate, they do share a common theme – a quest to seek and train people who are enthusiastic and compassionate, and who are motivated to work in the PSW field.

In a recent interview, Chief Executive Officer for ICAN, Marie Leon, explained that with a growing population of seniors, there is a greater need for qualified PSWs, particularly those who are committed to providing quality care for their clients. The challenge is to recruit motivated candidates and retain them within the organization. She explained that when demands for a profession are high, so are turnover rates.

St. Albert's PSW program is in its third year and 24 spots are available for each intake (every six months). Students must pass an aptitude test and a formal interview before gaining admission to the Program. ICAN is one of the facilities that accepted PSW students to do the practical portion of the, so a positive partnership between the two organizations already existed. In the Fall, both ICAN and St. Albert entered into formal discussions to take their partnership one step further.  In an an effort to recruit and retain strong PSWs, an agreement was reached whereby ICAN would sponsor up to six students. ICAN supports each student by paying their registration fee of $1,500, and by providing a weekly stipend to support the student financially during their program. Once the student finishes the theory portion of the course, they are hired immediately as a casual employee. In return, the student must commit to working for ICAN for two years in order to fulfill their obligation of the agreement.

According to the school’s principal, Karl Dreger,it is a win-win for both parties. “ICAN is a progressive organization which offers its employees a competitive wage and a comprehensive benefit package." "There is a comprehensive interview process for these six coveted spots,” Dreger explained.  “Not only is the student candidate interviewed to gain admittance into the PSW program, but select students who we believe would be good candidates for the ICAN program are interviewed again by the ICAN staff. 

One of the students who was given this opportunity, Amy Winn, gushed about her experience at St. Albert, as well as her upcoming career placement with ICAN. “I have been a career waitress for 15 years,” Winn explained.  “I heard about the St. Albert PSW program through word of mouth, and decided it was worth looking into.  I had been out of school for 15 years and all I could remember about school was that I struggled to stay awake.  This program at St. Albert is anything but boring – the teacher is absolutely incredible – she is very knowledgeable and every day teaches us something interesting and exciting. This school is the perfect setting for learning as there are no distractions like in a regular school.  I am excited about this opportunity, and feel very lucky to have been chosen to be a part of this incredible partnership with ICAN.” Principal Karl Dreger echoed Winn’s sentiments about the teacher and the school.  “We are so fortunate to have Dawn-Marie Brunet as the program lead for this course. Not only is she a certified teacher, but she is also a certified Registered Nurse (R.N.) with many years of experience. Someone with this type of experience is very hard to come by.  The students really respond well to her teaching, and the end result is a group of PSW’s who are inspired to make a positive difference in our community.  This is a really great example of the outstanding and supportive environment at St. Albert. These days, we must seek and forge partnerships outside of the education sector to keep our programs strong and viable. A synergistic relationship such as this is a wonderful model that we are very proud of"

For more information on the PSW program, the partnership with ICAN or other St. Albert programs, please call the school at (705)673-3031 or visit their website at:

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