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June 10, 2016 8:57 AM

Funding provides free skills training for Aboriginal students

Conestoga has received funding from the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) to provide free tuition, books and peer tutoring to eligible applicants in the Medical Office Practices one-year certificate program starting September 2016.

The funding is part of CAP’s Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy program which supports skills development for Aboriginal Peoples living off-reserve to help them find employment and fill job gaps in sectors experiencing skills and labour shortages.

Conestoga’s Medical Office Practices program is delivered at the Brantford and Doon campuses and is designed for individuals interested in working in the health-services field as the first point of contact for clients and patients. It provides students with a blend of experiences to prepare them for a variety of front-line health services where a strong foundation in computer skills, communication abilities and knowledge of health-care terminology is required. Students in the program develop customer service skills and learn how to address front-line inquiries and document processes.

Program coordinator Nancy Weatherhead said it is believed to be the only one-year college program of its kind in Ontario and the only one to provide a full dental course.

“The program offers flexibility,” said Weatherhead. “After just eight months of study we have students acquiring full-time positions. Some graduates are working in specialist and chiropractic offices and many have found dental opportunities and positions in long-term care and insurance. Other students choose to complete a second year of study in the Health Office Administration program."

Weatherhead said the program provides theory and skills training on various software applications, including medical software and MS office, but also offers hands-on simulation exercises where students are required to schedule and register patients and handle billing and insurance scenarios.

Through the CAP funding Conestoga received, individuals of Aboriginal descent living off-reserve may be eligible for free tuition, free books and peer tutoring in the program this September. For more information, contact Roxane Shawana, 519-748-5220, ext. 2457.

Students enrolled in the program will also have access to Conestoga's Be-Dah-Bin Gamik, a Place of New Beginnings, which provides services for Aboriginal students at the college. It assists students as they transition into college life by offering social and cultural events, traditional counselling services and an Elders-in-Residence program. Visit Aboriginal Services for more information.

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