The head of the Seven Generations Educational Institute says the timing of the new provincial learn and stay program is really good.
The province recently announced the expansion of the program for nursing, paramedic and medical laboratory technologists students a grant covering their education if they stay in the region for a term of service after graduating, from approved courses.
Seven Generations Educational Institute CEO Brent Tookenay said any way to attract and keep people engaged by getting their certifications here is an advantage for Northwestern Ontario.
“Obviously it’s huge and trying to get people to stay if they’re not from the area in Northwestern Ontario, where there’s the shortage of nurses, paramedics, and [other health care sector workers], it’s absolutely a really good opportunity to attract people,” he said.
Tookenay said the program also helps students from the area stay in the region, and that the grant should attract more students to their programs.
The increased interest works with Seven Generation’s plans for expansion, he said, including offering a paramedic program in Sioux Lookout come September.
Job prospects for the course are promising. According to Chad Buist, Chief of Paramedic Services, the service is actively hiring, and the current staff has been working overtime throughout Covid, to cover the significant staff shortages. It’s a rewarding and exciting job, he added.
“Its an opportunity to help care for others and make a difference in someone’s life,” he said. “Every day is different which could look like helping someone in car accident or delivering a baby. The learning is continuous as is the progression of the career. You will make close relationships and lifelong friends with your colleagues while giving back to your community.”
Increasing the number of nurses and paramedics will help with the challenges smaller towns and their hospitals face with staffing in areas like the emergency departments, said Tookenay.
“If we can lessen that burden, people will most likely stay in the profession. I think there’s been so much negative press regarding how many hours people are working and things like [burn out],” he said.
Tookenay said it’s still a work in progress to figure out what happens if a student decides not to work in the area.
However, he said, since the majority of the paramedic and nursing students are from the area, he doesn’t see it being much of an issue.
“If they live in the area already, it’s not like they’re going to uproot and move to Toronto or wherever,” he said, adding that the demand is so great, students likely won’t have issues finding a position locally after graduating.
Medical laboratory technologists were included in the recent expansion of the provincial Learn and Stay grant program designed to train more health care workers in underserved areas. However, the only eligible program in Northern Ontario is in Sudbury.
Where to Learn and Stay
Eligible Learn and Stay programs in northwestern Ontario
Seven Generations Education Institute (partnered with Durham College), Fort Frances, Kenora
Confederation College, Thunder Bay
BACHELOR OR BACHELOR OF SCIENCE IN NURSING
Lakehead University, Thunder Bay
MASTER’S PROGRAMS FOR NURSING
Lakehead University, Thunder Bay
For a comprehensive list of all eligible programs across Ontario, visit