Contact North offers wide variety of free training, education opportunities

·6 min read

LISTOWEL – Contact North’s Listowel Centre located within The Village Table at 295 Main St. W. is opening many doors for locals by offering access to training and educational opportunities.

“I would say that Contact North is peerless in Ontario for its repository of knowledge when it comes to all things training and education,” said Education and Training Advisor Jeffrey Scholl. “If there is anybody who is looking for a skill, certificate, diploma or a way to improve themselves in some way through academia or training, Contact North is a one-stop-shop to find out what is out there that is best suited for them.”

He advises that while many of the opportunities Contact North offers are free, if you are looking to complete a college or university program there will be fees.

“We help people find full college programs,” he said. “We’ll help them fill out their applications. We’ll help them search out grants and OSAP. We do have a vested interest in elevating people and getting people educated but we’re not favourable to any one organization.”

Contact North’s mandate is to support people in small communities and that are underprivileged.

“It’s not very often you get to be as completely altruistic as we get to be at Contact North,” said Scholl. “I love that part.”

Contact North is funded by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities.

“We have this insanely strong knowledge of everything that exists and there is a lot of free content put out by colleges and universities that nobody knows about,” he said.

Scholl has been helping the Listowel Wingham Hospitals Alliance and the Municipality of North Perth offer training to staff through LinkedIn Learning accounts and free college courses that are granted.

“There was a municipal skills accelerator that was granted by the Ministry of Labour and Training so they were mid to high-level management based courses that were completely free for anybody to do,” he said. “They have no way to advertise that and most people around here have never heard of Northern College.”

North Perth staff completed quite a few courses relating to finance and management.

Lambton College also offers many free credits which Scholl said includes an eight-course series on equity and diversity. When he was letting the LWHA know about available courses, they were interested in the equity and diversity series because they were about to spend about $10,000 getting similar training for staff.

Contact North offers LinkedIn Learning for free through a partnership with library systems across the province.

“The level of material on the website is incredible,” he said. “On top of the amount of material on the website Contact North can sit down with each person and create a custom learning path to make sure they are getting the most out of the software.”

One of the most desired trainings for people working in local hospitals was customer service. “They are dealing with people who are coming in off the street,” said Scholl.

“They are the ones that have to ask for vaccine passports. They are the ones that you have to insist put on a mask. They are dealing with people who are angry because their kids are at the hospital so there are some really good courses on how to deescalate customer service situations and handle angry customers.”

The way Contact North works is not through teaching, but their expertise lies in finding training and educational opportunities.

“We have this repository of data and collection of material that is second to none,” said Scholl. “Everything is online-based for us. If it’s not available online we’ll still help people connect to it if we can but our mandate is to try to help people find online content to be able to upscale education in their community.”

At the Listowel Centre, they provide computer and Wi-Fi access to any student working on any training.

“We have computers for people to use completely free of charge and we also proctor exams for the colleges and universities,” he said. “So say someone is taking a Nippissing nursing exam and they are doing it fully online. Nippissing would let us know the student is coming. Nippissing would send us the exam. We would proctor the exam for the student and then we would send that exam back to Nippissing.

“That service is all provided for free.”

They have only been offering the physical computers in Listowel since August or later summer, but Scholl said he has been supporting Listowel for four years and Contact North has been supporting the area for 46 years.

“But the thing is again, nobody knows who we are,” he said. “Another big role I have, Partners in Employment will refer clients to me for skills upgrades. I’ll meet with that client and I will set them up with the skills training.”

For people interested in completing high school, Contact North partners with multiple school boards across the province to provide free opportunities for full Ontario Secondary School Diplomas.

“Typically if someone is trying to get their life together and get their high school, they don’t have $500 to throw at that as well as surviving,” said Scholl. “That’s pretty much where we are now… so it’s really hard for people to wrap their heads around the kaleidoscope of opportunity Contact North provides. It’s phenomenal.”

To get in touch email Listowel@ContactNorth.ca.

“All people need to do is send an email that says what training they are interested in finding out about,” he said. “We’ll do our best to find something that fits that mould.”

The Listowel Centre is open by appointment Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

“There are currently no walk-ins due to COVID regulations,” he said. “Masks are required and Contact North has a free screening tool to make sure people aren’t coming in with COVID symptoms.”

After adding those caveats, Scholl noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has had some silver linings for remote training and educational opportunities.

“The number of things we were told through the years could never be online, COVID has proven that was not true,” he said. “It’s amazing when you have to shut your entire organization down to learn that – well, maybe this could have gone online… Organizations are seeing that there is a lot of benefits to online learning with data capture, with training, with not having to commute anymore.”

Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner

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