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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection


Wanted: Health and wellness leaders

By David Chilton
Special to the Toronto Sun

Toronto banned smoking in bars and restaurants June 1. There's been some predictable grumbling, but concern for healthier, safer workplaces has been gathering speed for the last several years, boosting the demand for health and wellness leaders across every sector of the economy.
Coreen Flemming Centennial College

The oldest program of its kind in Canada is the one-year, full-time Workplace Wellness and Health Promotion course at Centennial College. It's now in its 18th year, says program co-ordinator Coreen Flemming, with 35 students graduating this year and 50 places open for next September.

The jump in admissions doesn't mean being accepted is a shoo-in, though.

"We're close to being wait-listed right now," Flemming says. "We were ahead of the market and now the market is catching up to us."

Would-be students need a degree or a college diploma to get into the program, Flemming says, with about two-thirds of the successful applicants coming straight from university. Almost all the students are women, with men making up 5 per cent to 10 per cent of the class depending on the year. Tuition is about $2,800.

Split into two 15-week semesters, the program teaches such subjects as personal wellbeing, health promotion theory and practice, stress management, nutrition and physical wellbeing.

In their second semester, Flemming explains, there's a two days a week student placement. They could work in a corporate setting for the likes of Telus Mobility, Pepsi-Cola Canada and the Bank of Montreal; or in the not for profit sector in hospitals and universities, such as the University of Waterloo, or for charities such as the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

"Placement is a key feature of our program," Flemming says, adding that many students are hired full time or on contract at the place where they interned. Already this year seven or eight students have found jobs, she continues, four of them through placements.

Linda Lewis, national wellness manager for Telus Mobility, took the Centennial course part time (although it's officially full time, Workplace Wellness and Health Promotion has some built-in flexibility). She says the Centennial program is uniquely structured, taking a holistic approach and putting it in the context of a business setting.
  • The Workplace Wellness and Health Promotion program will accept 50 students this year.
  • Applicants need a degree or college diploma.
  • The full-time program lasts 30 weeks.
  • Student placement in the second semester is mandatory.
  • Starting salaries can reach $44,000 a year.

  • Lewis, whose background is in corporate training and development, says there's no such thing as a typical day in her job, so at any moment she could be co-ordinating a personal health clinic, instructing employees in work-life balance, leading staff in weekly stretching exercises, and so on.

    "Canadian workplace culture is shifting from work until you drop," Lewis says. "There needs to be a balance of work and other interests."

    However, she cautions that finding the right balance is a personal responsibility.

    "We're here as a wellness conduit," she says, "not a wellness driver."

    Telus Mobility has just hired two Centennial graduates, and takes student placements. Tri Fit is similarly involved.

    Sue Pridham, president and one of the owners of the company that runs fitness and wellness programs for Toyota Canada, Canada Life, Labatt Breweries and others, says she may hire four or five Centennial grads a year, and has high praise for the program.

    So have lots of others with positions to fill. Flemming says employment prospects are better now than they've ever been. Starting salaries aren't bad either, with $40,000 to $44,000 representative of what the newly minted grad can expect.

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