Human Services

Human Services Certificate - Educational Assistant / Community Support, Indigenous Focus

10-month full-time certificate or 20-month part-time certificate

Where: Port Alberni
Starts: September
  • As a specialized education assistant or community support worker, you will bring unique skills and training to the workplace and help mediate Aboriginal cultural and curricular content.
  • Prepare to provide support to individuals with a broad range of disabilities, in the classroom and in the community.
  • Gain first-hand experience and employment contacts through work practicums with school district and community agencies.
  • Learn intercultural communication skills and understand contemporary Canadian social and family issues, with a focus on Indigenous populations, through practical training and weekly seminars.
  • Designed for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal learners.
Career possibilities: As a graduate, you will be prepared for a valuable career as support worker in the community and in group homes. You will be prepared for employment as an education assistant, working under the direction of teachers to provide support. 
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  • Be prepared. A combination of university studies and skill-based courses prepares you for employment or to continue your studies. A large amount of program time is dedicated to supervised practice experience.
  • Gain the skills you'll need. Explore engaging subject matter in an interactive classroom setting. With small classes and high quality instruction, you'll gain strong skills in the human services field.
  • More for less. Attending NIC offers a less expensive but rigorous credential that is widely recognized and respected by community agencies, including area schools.
  • Get connected. With the opportunity to develop professional networks and a broad knowledge of local community resources, you'll have the confidence and contacts needed to pursue a great career.
  • A highly valued education. NIC works closely with community agencies and indigenous communities to ensure that course content is current, relevant and valued by employers.



NIC's Human Services department and its programs are part of a provincial network that ensures not only high-quality instruction and programming, but also transferability throughout the province. 

The Education Assistant/Community Support, Indigenous Focus certificate is offered in two ways: over 10 months of full-time study, or over 20 months of part-time study. The full time option contains three terms and the part time option contains five.

Coursework provides a base for enhancing communication skills and critical analysis. You will learn a variety of frameworks for analyzing the structure of problems within society and will explore different models for supporting families and individuals. You will study human development through the lifespan as well as have opportunities to explore in-depth theories, skills and positive behaviour support strategies. You will learn to support the health and wellness of individuals through supervised placements in a community agency and school settings as well s weekly seminars where you will discuss ethical issues and reflect upon your practice experiences.

You will explore in-depth theories, skills and supports required for education assistance and community support work.

To complete the program, you will complete six weeks of full-time supervised practice experience in a community agency or school. The final term also provides you with exposure to the field which can help you gain employment.

The Education Assistant/Community Support, Indigenous Focus program provides the same training in classroom assistance, disabilities and ethics found in the Education Assistant/Community Support program while providing a greater understanding of the culture and history of Indigenous learners.

You will develop intercultural communication skills as you study First Nations education and learn about contemporary Canadian social and family issues. There is a focus on Indigenous populations with opportunities to participate directly in cultural events such as potlatches, lahal games and witnessing governance ceremonies. The program promotes volunteering and community participation and is based on the concept that self-awareness is integral in the ability to help others. The medicine wheel paradigm provides a model of human health and balance.

Career Opportunities

As a graduate of the Educational Assistant/Community Support, Indigenous Focus program, you will be well-prepared to assist individuals who have physical, cognitive and psychiatric disabilities.

As an education assistant, you will qualify to work in schools and, under the supervision of the teacher, provide classroom support.

As a community support worker, you may pursue career in community-based or government agencies, in departments that assist individuals with diverse needs.

Some graduates have started their own community support businesses and hold contracts with a variety of government and non-government agencies.

Admission Requirements

  1. C+ in one of Provincial English 12, English 12 First Peoples, NIC ENG-060, ENG-096, ENG-098, ESL-090 or equivalent; or English assessment.
  2. Completed 20 hours volunteer work and HSW Professional Reference Information Sheet.
  3. Signed Human Services Requisite Skills and Abilities document.
  4. 300-word HSW Letter of Intent coming into the program and career goals.

Priority Admission for Aboriginal Applicants

The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal has provided Special Program approval to allow priority admission for a selected number of self-declared Aboriginal applicants to this program beginning in September 2013. For more information please refer to NIC's Aboriginal Education Services program page (, or contact an Aboriginal Advisor at your local campus.

Upgrade with us to meet prerequisites

Upgrade your English, math and science courses for entry into the program of your choice. Succeed with the help of NIC’s supportive instructors. Courses are flexible and start several times a year so you can learn at your own pace. We offer daytime and evening options. Learn more

International Language Requirements

For international language requirements click here.

Before Classes Begin

Once accepted to the program but before classes begin, you will be required to:

  • attend a group information session. This mandatory session is designed to assist students in making an informed decision about pursuing a career in Human Services. The admissions department will send you an invitation with details regarding the date and time of the information session.
  • hold a current Standard First Aid certification with CPR Level C that will remain valid through to the end of the program.
  • submit a Criminal Record Check Permission form, which will be sent to you by Admissions once you have been offered a seat in the program.
  • complete a Personal Immunization form. This form will be sent to you by the admissions office when you have a seat in the program. It must be validated by the public health nurse at your local health unit.

Note: Human services students are not required to meet the PSY-130/131 prerequisites for registering in PSY-250/251. If you choose to work toward a degree, you may be required to complete PSY-130/131. 

HSW-176 and 177 are not university transferable. If you choose to work toward a degree program, you may be required to take PSY-250/251.

If you wish to reduce your workload, you can take ENG-115 or 125 before entering the program.

Transfer Credit & Credit For Prior Learning

Students with previous course work from another accredited institution may apply to transfer course credits to North Island College. For more information refer to Steps to University Transfer or contact Student Services.
Your previous life, work, or study experience, unassociated with formal education, may qualify for Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR). Your knowledge and skills will be evaluated to determine if you meet the objectives for selected courses up to a maximum of 50 per cent of the program. To qualify for PLAR, you must apply to the program, meet all the program requirements, and complete the PLAR before entering the program or one term before the scheduled course(s). The fee for each PLAR course is 75 per cent of the regular course fee. Refer to NIC policy #4-10: Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition. For information about which courses qualify for PLAR please contact the program department chair.

When you meet some learning objectives in a course(s) the assessment process may result in an exemption from some portion of the course(s). You will be required to register in the course and pay full tuition but your workload would be reduced. Note that eligibility for this process will be granted on an individual basis by the department. You must apply one semester in advance of the course start date. For more information please contact the program department chair.


To Be Successful

  • You must adhere to the program expectations document and the standards outlined in individual human service course guides (ie: attendance, confidentiality, professional conduct, etc). You are encouraged to review these documents and decide if you are able to meet the standards outlined. If you have concerns about meeting program expectations, you are encouraged to speak with a human services faculty member or college counsellor.
  • Strong essay writing and good computer skills are required as you are expected to submit well-written, word-processed assignments and access online resources. 
  • If you are planning to continue into a university degree program in education, social work or child and youth care, ensure your elective choices are university transferable.


Program Requirements

  • ENG-115 Essay Writing and Critical Analysis or ENG-125 Composition and Indigenous Literature I
  • HSW-131 Cross-Cultural Communication Skills in the Classroom
  • HSW-132 Cross-Cultural Social Analysis
  • HSW-164 Foundations of Community Support
  • HSW-136 Holistic Health and Well Being
  • HSW-137 Support Strategies for Skill Development in Cross-Cultural Settings
  • HSW-170 Education Assistant/Community Support Practice Experience I
  • HSW-130 The Educational Assistant in the Cross-Cultural Classroom
  • FNS-160 First Nations Education: Traditional and Contemporary
  • PSY-250 Human Development from Conception through Childhood; and
    PSY-251 Human Development from Adolescence through Adulthood
    HSW-176 Human Development: 0-12 Years of Age; and 
    HSW-177 Human Development: Adolescence Onward
  • HSW-174 Human Service Practice Experience II  


Practice Experience

You will gain extensive practice experience throughout the program. Practice experience placements are offered to provide you with actual on-the-job training in a school or community service agency. The placements are supervised by teachers, agency personnel and faculty. A weekly seminar provides additional learning and connection of theory with practice. The purpose of the practice experience is to provide you with direct experience. This allows you to learn exactly what the job entails, what skills are required and the opportunity to learn those skills both in theory and in practice.

Completion Requirements

  1. A letter grade of C (60%) or better in all classes.
  2. A letter grade of P (Pass) in all Practicum courses.
  3. You must receive a letter grade of C (60%) or better in all certificate courses (HSW, SSW, PSY 250 and PSY 251) to be promoted from one term to the next term. If you fail any course in the program you cannot progress until the course is passed. ENG 115 or 125 courses are not a requirement of progression but must be completed with a grade of C (60%) or better in order to obtain the credential.

    In order to repeat a course, you must reapply to the program in a subsequent offering of the same term in which the failure occurred providing there is an available seat. If in repeating the course, you fail again, then you will be removed entirely from the program and can only re-enter by going through the admission process. Please note that you may be required to begin at term one.
    If you failed a course, re-entered the program and successfully repeated the failed course, and then fail another course, you will be removed entirely from the program and can only re-enter by through the admission process. Please note that you may be required to begin at term one.
    Re-entering the program under any circumstance is dependent on an available seat and at the discretion of the human services department and in consultation with the Dean. If you fail a course, you may be asked to complete a learning assessment prior to being reconsidered for re-admission. These regulations are important to the profession to ensure that graduates have the required skills and knowledge, and are therefore deemed safe to practice.
  4. All students are required to adhere to the program expectations document. Failure to adhere to these standards may result in your being required to leave the program.

Tuition & Costs Estimate for
Fall 2018, Winter, Spring & Summer 2019

Costs indicated are estimates for a 100% course load per year, unless otherwise noted. Additional fees may also include necessary equipment, supplies, NIC appointed uniforms, or field trips not included in these estimates.

While we do our best to share accurate and timely fee information, changes may occur. For more information, visit tuition page.

Domestic Fees

Year 1
Tuition $3,585
NISU Fees $150
Lab Fees $25
Books $1,630
Learner Resource $190
Total $5,580
Full-time students are automatically enrolled in the mandatory Health and Dental Benefit plan ($275).

International Fees

Year 1
Tuition $12,730
NISU Fees $150
Lab Fees $25
Books $1,630
Learner Resource $190
Health and Dental $275
Total $15,000
Additional Costs for International Students include the $100 Application fee (required) and the $250 Accommodation Application Fee (optional).
Full-time students are automatically enrolled in the mandatory Health and Dental Benefit plan ($275).

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What type of volunteer experience can I use when applying for this program?
    You are required to complete 20 hours of volunteer experience in a human service agency, in direct contact with clients, prior to entering the program. Your supervisor must verify the number of hours completed and confirm that your performance with the volunteer organization was acceptable.
  2. Are class-related activities held in the evenings or on weekends?
    Some classes are held in the evening, although most are scheduled during the day. You may be required to work evenings or weekends for your practicum placement.
  3. Can I work while taking the program?
    The certificate program can be taken on a full-time or part-time basis, allowing more opportunity to work alongside your studies.
  4. What kinds of assignments will we do?
    You will write research papers, contribute to group projects, write tests and participate in many other classroom activities. Because you are expected to complete many essays and research papers, strong writing skills and computer literacy are important.
  5. How much homework can I expect?
    You should expect to spend at least one hour of homework for every hour of class.
  6. What kinds of work practice experiences are available?
    Workplace experiences are available in group homes, community outreach agencies supporting individuals with special needs, the school district, First Nations community organizations and other human service or community based agencies.
  7. Do I need a car?
    You will need to have reliable transportation to reach your practicum placements. You can also accept practicum placements located close to public transit or within walking distance.
  8. Can classes be transferred?
    Some classes are transferable to other BC universities and colleges. If you plan to continue into a university degree program in social work, child and youth care or education, ensure your elective choices are university-transferable. For more information, meet with an educational advisor
  9. Can I use this qualification in other provinces or countries?
    If you wish to pursue employment outside of BC, it is advisable to check required qualifications for your career in the province or country in which you want to work. Graduates of the Education Assistant/Community Support Worker program have used their qualifications to work in other jurisdictions, but it is important to confirm transferability with agencies ahead of time.
  10. What if I have a lot of experience in human services already?
    If you have worked or volunteered extensively in the human services field, you may be able to receive credit for your work. Prior Learning Assessment & Recognition (PLAR) is a process that allows you to receive credit for learning through employment, volunteering, workshops or other life experiences. You are required to pay a fee and complete some work to demonstrate your knowledge and skill level in the course for which you wish to receive credit. For more information on PLAR, visit Assessment Services.

Susan Shantz

Susan Shantz
Comox Valley Campus 250-334-5084 | Location PNT - 205

Sally Wisden

Sally Wisden
Comox Valley Campus 250-334-5053 | Location PNT - 129