Working in community services is a true calling. The people we meet who are inspired to follow this path are deeply motivated to make a positive difference in their communities.
It's not just about getting a job, or earning a regular paycheck—it's about finding a career where you can advocate for, and truly help, society's most vulnerable populations.
If you're considering becoming a community services worker, you probably feel a strong commitment to social justice, human rights, and equal access to opportunities.
You understand the crucial role organizations like women's shelters, rehabilitation centres, and homeless programs play in making your city a better place to live for everyone. And you want to be part of that movement.
Where better to start your career than Toronto? This is one of the most diverse, complex cities on the planet. Community services and social programs are at the heart of it all, helping to make Toronto a safer, healthier, more welcoming place to live.
What is a Community Services Worker?
Community services workers (CSWs) help at-risk people get the support they need to deal with issues like addiction, unemployment, homelessness, domestic abuse, and mental health challenges.
They work with every segment of the population, including children, teens, adults, seniors, and new immigrants. CSWs are trained to interview and counsel people in need, connect them to the right programs and services, follow-up on progress, and intervene in a crisis.
In many cases, CSWs are a life-line to people in serious, life-threatening situations—people who can't get help anywhere else. The work they do literally saves lives.
Working in this role often involves helping people escape violence, get access to health care, safe housing, addiction treatment, job training, and employment opportunities.
CSWs also work closely with people who have physical and developmental disabilities, both in residential facilities, and in private homes. They help with personal care, health needs, safety, maintaining an active social life, and achieving life goals.
Community Services Worker Training
You don't need a university degree to begin a community services career. Many colleges in the Greater Toronto Area offer community services worker training, in the form of a diploma program.
These programs are typically about one year in length, and some can be completed online. The goal of training is to prepare students to become powerful advocates for at-risk people.
This means equipping students with a specific set of practical support skills, and a theoretical foundation in subjects like sociology and psychology. The courses you'll need to complete for a CSW diploma will include:
- understanding the community services system in Canada (available programs, social services, and where support is lacking)
- how to research and access community services in your local community
- at-risk populations (the specific target groups you will be working with as a CSW)
- social psychology, biology and behavior, motivation and learning
- mental health disorders and therapies
- counselling theories and techniques
- Canadian code of ethics for counsellors and social workers
- non-violent crisis intervention
- First Aid and CPR certification
Quality community services worker training will also include an internship at a local organization. This part of the program is key for helping students apply what they've learned, build confidence, and make professional connections before graduation.
Community Services Worker Careers in Toronto
Toronto is Canada's biggest city, with a population of over 2.9 million. The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) hosts a much larger population of more than 6.3 million people.
This is the 4th largest metropolis in North America, and one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. And while Toronto remains a top destination for foreign tourists, new immigrants, and fellow Canadians, it faces a wide range of social and economic challenges.
For example, the most recent survey by the city of Toronto reveals a serious housing and homeless problem. And that problem intersects with several other issues, such as addiction, domestic abuse, and lack of mental health services.
Here is a quick snapshot of the situation in Toronto, over the last few years:
- there are approximately 5,253 homeless people in Toronto sleeping outdoors and in emergency shelters
- 7% of homeless are ex-military personnel
- 33% of homeless identify as Aboriginal
- 21% of homeless are youth who identify as part of the LGBTQ community
- 4,812 men, women and children used the emergency shelter system on an average night in May 2017 (17.5% higher than May 2016)
- there was an 80% increase in refugees seeking shelter services in 2016
- 66% of homeless people say they need help paying Toronto's extremely high rents
- there are over 90,000 people on wait lists for rent-controlled homes in Toronto
- addiction, mental health issues, and family violence are the top 3 reasons for homelessness across Canada (including Ontario)
Community services workers in the GTA help address all of these issues through their work at shelters, addiction centres, and mental health organizations. And demand has never been higher for CSWs in Toronto.
The latest research from the Government of Canada Job Bank projects a steady supply of jobs for CSWs over the next 10 years. This occupation gets the Job Bank's highest rating for career outlook: 3/3 stars.
Note: the Job Bank is constantly updating their outlook ratings for various careers. See the most recent report for CSWs here.
Community services workers in the GTA will find job options at:
- halfway houses
- detoxification centres
- residential care facilities
- home care organizations
- outpatient clinics
- homeless and emergency shelters
- personal and vocational counselling centres
Is Becoming a CSW Right For You?
CSWs do an incredible job of helping people escape life-threatening situations, and find independence and empowerment through targeted services and personalized support.
Becoming a community services worker is about making sure people get the fresh start, opportunities, and compassionate care they deserve to build a better life.
This career is challenging, and at times, you'll have to deal with frustration and loss. But the rewards can be great. And for many CWS, the benefits of watching someone totally transform their life, far outweigh the downsides.
Think you're ready for the challenge? Feel called to make a real difference in your local community?
We'd love to hear from you. Click below to explore the Community Services Worker Program at Herzing College in Toronto (offered on campus and online).
Get your questions answered and confirm this career is right for you. We're here to help!