Tabitha Cribbie is a 36-year-old single mother with a disabled child.
She hadn’t been to school since 2000, but last fall she found out about a unique pilot project at Canadore College which helps individuals through Ontario Works to get back to school again and then lead them back into the work force.
Cribbie was one of four students who took part in the program which started in January of 2016. She enrolled in a Social Service Worker program where she finished with an impressive 4.0 grade.
She took part in a lunch and learn program which put her in the right direction.
“I was always interested in going back to College, I just didn’t know how. I didn’t know the dynamics with OSAP,” she said.
“I haven’t been to school since 2000, and that’s over 16 years since I went to college and I didn’t know how that worked so I went to the lunch and learn in November and they went through the whole process with me and I was able to get approved with OSAP within two weeks and I was already on board, I went in immediately and got everything done. It was a quick process for me.”
Kristen Hutchison is the project lead. She says they are expecting to have as many as 50 students be part of the three-year pilot project this fall.
“So that’s what the program is really about is just getting individuals who are on Ontario Works into post secondary and providing them some financial support, mostly education support and removing those barriers of transitioning from social assistance into post secondary,” stated Hutchison.
Hutchison says the funding for the program comes from the Treasury Board through the local poverty reduction fund which is part of the Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy.
The program offers supports such as entrance awards, supplies, subsidized housing, health benefits, personal coaching, forgivable grants and assistance finding a job upon graduation.
“We have so many types of individuals in this program and they all have different situations and circumstances and the point is to provide the individualized learning plan and individualized support to get them to that point where they are successful in a program and where ultimately we are not just assisting them in finding employment but they’ve been set up through the whole process of being successful in their job once they leave.”