Grade 12 students Avery Toews and Jennifer Mills are just two of the students at Portage Collegiate Institute who are involved with the Health Care Aide program that will see them studying for their career while still moving toward high school graduation.

Career Development Coordinator with the Portage la Prairie School Division Blair Hordeski says it's a fortunate partnership with the local Red River Polytechnic campus to see students study a college course while yet in high school.

"Basically, it's a college course that the high school pays for," says Toews. "On top of our regular high school classes, we attend Webex meetings which are online video chats and learn about the Health Care Aide program through the college. We basically do that till May, and then in May, we have practicum for six weeks till the end of June. And we'll graduate with our high school diploma as well as a Red River College certificate."

Mills says she's been interested in the field for quite some time.

"In middle school. my grandfather got sick, so I spent a lot of time at the hospital getting to see how they had such an impact on people who are there for the worst moments of their lives," notes Mills. "They just get to help them through that. I've always wanted to be a part of that because it just seems like such a rewarding thing, to have that impact on someone's life to help them through this rough time."

Toews explains much of her family is in this field, and she's shadowed doctors and saw what goes on.

"I think this is a wonderful opportunity to, not only like get to see what they do in healthcare, but we also just get to work on it while we're doing our other classes," adds Mills. "Every day when we are at school, we're also learning this. It's just really a good opportunity to learn more things than you would in regular classes at school."

Toews says it's not too overwhelming, but it does have its moments.

Blair Hordeski"Just when the practicum comes, it's going to be hard to focus on our high school classes because it's a full-time position," says Toews. "For doing full-time practicum at the hospital or at MDC, it's going to be hard to get our classes in beause some days, we'll have to miss school for that."

Hordeski outlines the specifics.

"They'll be earning a Health Care Aide certificate that's valid across most of Canada," says Hordeski. "We see some of the students are opting into the program as a forever job and some see it as a great laddering opportunity in healthcare. Currently, I know that the program this year will be run primarily, and is being run primarily, virtually with an in-person practicum. They have an amazing teacher, Laurie McCauley, is an amazing instructor. And when this program is running in-person, it is amazing. We have 12 candidates from the high school in the program."

He adds they'll earn five Grade 12 credits in the program as well as the Health Care Aide certificate.

"The only problem is, is that sometimes there are some scheduling conflicts with different classes," notes Hordeski. "For the right student, it's just a great, great laddering opportunity for careers in health care. We promote the program throughout the students' high school career, but it's something waiting for them during their second semester of grade 12. It's up to the student to basically get all their ducks in a row so that they get the credits that they need in semester one of grade 12, so that full-time, they can attend the college and take the Health Care Aide certification program."