PSW Education Standardization in Ontario: A Timeline

PSW education has always been a topic of contention. 

Since your profession, unlike nursing, is not regulated, there is no “one” standard for PSW programs. 

This creates the biggest dilemma for those individuals who want to join a college and become a Personal Support Worker. 

The Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities did acknowledge this problem a long time ago, back in 1993. 

As a result, many attempts were made in order to bring some decorum to PSW education. 

The first such attempt dates back to 1993 with implementation in 1997, in 2007 and more recently in 2015, when a new PSW program Standard was introduced. 

For anyone interested in knowing how it all enfolded, you can continue to read below. 


One of the earliest attempts made by the province towards standardizing the educational and vocational training of PSWs occurred in 1993.

Effectively, it was undertaken through the initiative of the Ontario Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Training and Education and the Ontario Community Support Association.

The objective was to:

  • develop new program standard for PSWs across the province, and
  • to establish a comprehensive curriculum that would be utilized by educational institutions across the board.

Thus the focus in the early stages was placed on mitigating the identified problem and developing a new system based on consistency, flexibility, portability, standardization, clarification, and accountability.

After years of consultation, the final report was submitted in 1995 and the new training program was developed two years later.

The objective was to ensure that anyone entering the profession will have been taught a curriculum that contained the same material and content, regardless of the institution the individual had received his or her certificate from.

Hence the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care Personal Support Worker Training Standard (1997) was comprised of a series of outlined (thematic) standards.

Ultimately, the initiative successfully created educational standards that were consistent throughout Ontario, initially creating a more cohesive framework than had previously existed.


Over time, a chasm once again developed and the standardization began to diminish, giving way to the same degree of inconsistency that had existed in 1993.

According to the Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA):

“The variations in PSW training which has developed over the past decade present challenges to students, employers clients and impact the quality of care and the sustainability of Ontario’s health system itself.”

Subsequently, a significant amount of resulting issues arose, specifically amongst both those working within the field and the individuals who were responsible for hiring them.

OCSA revealed:

“Employer and student confusion and uncertainty are reasons enough to require redress, but the real risks to safe and high-quality client service that result from this fragmentation demand that the situation is rectified immediately.”


Because of the inconsistency that developed between 1997 when the new training program was established and the decrease in the adherence of it less than 8 years later, educators opted to refer to the stipulations outlined in the Long Term Home Care Act in 2007 to determine which standard to adhere to.

The Act began to be used as a point of reference by stakeholders who felt that subsection 79/10 – 47 entitled Qualifications of Personal Support Workers could essentially fill the gap that had developed.

Thus as per the Act, different providers used three different educational standards:

  • Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology used a Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities standard
  • Private career colleges used the curriculum provided by the National Association of Career Colleges (NACC).
  • Conversely, school boards used a standard provided by the Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA) which had its own process called the PSW Educational Program Accreditation process (PEPA).

Although the Act served to provide clarity regarding the educational standards in a more generalized understanding of the requirements that were to be adhered to, the lack of consistency and parity remained a pervasive issue.

Thus with vocational standards varying between those established by the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities, NACC as well as the OCSA, there was still no reliable way in which to ensure that those who had completed a certificate program all had the same knowledge and expertise upon entering the workforce.

Because of these inconsistencies in PSW education, a further assessment was carried out from 2012 to 2014. 

This gave birth to a new PSW program standard.

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Avlin is passionate about helping aspirants become better personal support workers. He is an entrepreneur and runs a clinic in Toronto.

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