Would You Make a Good Community Services Worker? Here's How to Find Out

The latest career report from the Government of Canada Job Bank tells us demand is steady for Community Services Workers (CSWs) in Toronto. And it's expected to remain stable over the next 10 years.

We'll have a balance of job-seekers and employers, and fair amount of growth in terms of community services and programs on offer.

What does all this mean? Well, it's positive news for anyone who feels called to a career in social services. It means there are opportunities to truly make a difference in your local community, delivering specialized support to the people who need it most.

For its part, Ontario has promised to do better for its most vulnerable populations. The provincial budget for 2018/19 has promised a huge boost to health care—in particular, a whopping $2.1 billion for mental health and addictions programs, and more services for seniors.

So, what exactly is the role of CSWs in all this? And if you're drawn to this career, how can you find out if you have the natural skills and aptitude to make a truly effective CSW?

Here are a few key things to think about when making your decision. And at the end of the post, you'll find links to learn more about training, jobs, and getting your CSW career off to a great start. 


What Exactly Does a Community Services Worker Do?

This is obviously the first thing you should know. Once you get a handle on the role and responsibilities of a CSW, you'll have a better sense of whether this job is right for you.

In a nutshell, a community services worker helps people with social and personal problems. These groups in society are often called "at-risk" populations. This is because they are at a very high risk for poor health, violence and abuse, extreme poverty, and early death.

At-risk groups include abused children, battered women, the homeless, people with mental illness (who are not receiving proper care and support), people struggling with addiction, and troubled teens.

Your job as a CSW would be to help connect at-risk people with the right programs, services, and opportunities .  The goal is to help your clients take control of their lives, achieve better health, more independence, and a brighter future.  

Community services workers use a range of techniques to achieve this goal, including:

  • assessing, interviewing, and counselling people in need
  • creating personalized care plans, and helping clients set and achieve goals
  • developing and leading community programs
  • following clients' progress through a program, and helping them stay on track
  • referring clients to other health care professionals, such as physicians and psychologists (when needed)
  • supporting people in crisis situations
  • finding safe housing solutions
  • providing employment counselling and job-search assistance

Community services workers help lift people out of desperate circumstances—by providing guidance, options, emotional support, and practical assistance. The work they do really does change lives, and make our neighborhoods safer, more fair places for everyone.

This article sums it up really well: 4 Ways Community Services Workers Change and Save Lives


Most Important Skills for CSWs

The practical skills CSWs need to help at-risk people are all taught in quality Community Services Worker training. Understanding how the social services system works, and learning techniques for counselling and assisting people in need are all included in your courses.

However, there are a range of other qualities you'll need to be truly successful in this career. These revolve around your attitude, values, and the way you interact with people in need. CSWs should be:

  • compassionate, open-minded, and non-judgemental
  • responsible, with a strong sense of ethics
  • understanding of different cultures, backgrounds, and belief systems
  • excellent communicators, spoken and written
  • able to connect easily with others, build trust and rapport
  • excellent listeners
  • good negotiators
  • strong problem-solvers
  • calm in a crisis
  • analytical, good planners
  • resilient and thick-skinned, can bounce back from a setback

These are some of the most important skills for community services workers. This role has its ups and downs, and can be quite challenging—but nothing is more rewarding than helping someone rebuild their life. With the right skillset, CSWs can have deeply fulfilling careers.

Learn more about the core values that motivate successful community services workers. Do these sound familiar to you? 6 Core Values Taught in CSW Training, and How They'll Shape Your Entire Social Services Career.


What's Involved in Community Services Worker Training?

We mentioned earlier that the basic skills needed to work in this field are all taught in community services worker training.  Now, let's take a closer look at what's involved in earning your CSW diploma.

On the plus side, CSW training is quick to complete. You can earn your diploma in just 12 months, studying full time. Also, some colleges offer an online version of the program, for people with busy schedules who can't make it to campus.

At Herzing, for example, we offer this program both on campus and online, through our very popular Flex-Ed program. (Check it out here)

Your CSW training will include a wide range of courses that cover every aspect of developing and delivering effective community services. You can expect to study:

  • the Canadian social services system (pros, cons, gaps in the system)
  • community programs and services available in Toronto
  • sociology
  • criminology
  • family dynamics
  • mental health and addictions
  • interviewing and counselling techniques (both individual and group counselling)
  • social psychology, biology and behavior, motivation and learning
  • non-violent crisis intervention
  • CPR and First Aid certificates

You will also learn computer office software, group problem-solving skills, how to be an effective mentor, and tools for finding your first CSW position after college.

This is a well-rounded program, and when combined with the personal characteristics mentioned earlier, fully prepares students to launch successful careers.


What are Your Career Options as a CSW

So, what are your career options as a CSW? What different types of environments can you work in after completing your CSW program? The truth is, you'll have a wide range of settings and clients to choose from.

Community services workers are employed at:

  • halfway houses
  • child welfare organizations
  • women's shelters
  • homeless shelters
  • addiction counselling programs
  • detoxification centres
  • employment and vocational counselling centres
  • residential care centres and adult day programs

You can work with seniors, children, teens, indigenous populations, the LGBTQ community, people with intellectual disabilities, new immigrants and refugees—there are so many ways to serve your community as a CSW. Choose the path that inspires you most, where you feel you can really make a difference.

Get a closer look at your career options here: 4 Popular Career Options After CSW Training


Learning More About Becoming a Community Services Worker...

Still have questions? Looking for more information or guidance?

We strongly recommend talking with an experienced admissions advisor. This is the very best way to get all your questions answered, and learn more about CSW courses, careers, class schedules, and admission requirements.

Find out if you're a good fit for the program. Get help with things like financial aid and completing your application. You can also schedule a tour of our downtown Toronto campus, or experience a live CSW class.

The more you know, the easier it will be to make your decision. We've been matching students with career training programs for over 50 years—so we're sure we can point you in the right direction.

Chat live with an advisor right now, or click below to explore Herzing's Community Services Worker Program.

Learn More About Community Services Worker Training at Herzing

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