KITCHENER -- Conestoga College has launched a new course for personal support workers called the FAST PSW program.

“The regular program would be eight months. Two semesters is our traditional delivery and then the fast is a 20-week accelerated version, so the same number of hours total is then put into five months,” said Sarah Pottier, Chair of the PSW and Supportive Care at Conestoga College.

The first group of students will start remote learning in two weeks, with an in-class lab portion and work placement at the end of the course - all following strict COVID protocols.

According to Pottier, there has been a significant increase in enrolment in their traditional PSW and Supportive Care Programs since the fall.

“There's more students that are feeling called to the profession and leaving other work environments that they've worked in for many years and saying now I know, I’ve heard of what a PSW is and I can support my community by becoming a PSW and actually supporting the workforce that way,” said Pottier

The Ontario Personal Support Workers Association is expressing concern over the condensed program.

In a statement they said in part they are "deeply concerned about this program as we have not seen the curriculum and cannot comment on the quality of the PSW’s graduating."

In response Conestoga College said "the fast program is intentionally designed for individuals who have previous post-secondary experience or previous health care environment experience. These requirements will provide students with context to support success within the fast-paced delivery. The fast program delivers the same program content and contact hours of the ‘traditional two-semester’ program, just in a faster delivery schedule without any break periods."

The FAST program costs the same cost as the full eight-month course, but there are scholarships available.

The first FAST PSW class is set to begin at the end of November with the scheduled graduation date in May of 2021.