A new private vocational school has been established in downtown Brandon, with a mission to prepare students for careers in mental health.
LINKS Institute president and CEO John Jackson is instructing the school’s first batch of students in its six-month Community Support Worker program.
It’s an online school inspired in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, Jackson said by phone from his office at the Brandon Chamber of Commerce building in downtown Brandon on Friday.
Watching traditional schools struggle to pivot to online instruction inspired him to set up shop as an online-only institution able to draw in students from across the province.
Because they’re based online and unaffected by the pandemic, he said it offers students greater stability than in-person institutions are currently able to maintain.
Plus, he added, "I’m hoping that a dedicated online program like this will help people stay in their communities."
The six-month programming adds additional flexibility, he said.
"There may be people who are unemployed who are looking to get back into work, but they don’t necessarily have the time or commitment to devote to a university degree or college diploma.
"It’s a win-win for them, and so for myself, there’s the satisfaction of providing solutions to a problem, and I’m really interested in enhancing workforce development."
He plans on hiring two additional instructors and expanding their offerings beyond the initial Community Support Worker program to include a "suite of relevant mental health and related services."
Jackson is the former executive director of Samaritan House Ministries. He has a master’s degree in psychiatric nursing and is currently working on a PhD.
The Community Support Worker program aims to prepare students for positions such as group home workers, addictions workers and life skills instructor, among other things.
Jackson is offering Brandon City Council a presentation on LINKS Institute during tonight’s meeting, as he said it "holds relevance not only across Manitoba but for Brandon as a community."
"We’re struggling with issues of unemployment right now, so I think that council would benefit from being aware of it."
» Twitter: @TylerClarkeMB