How to draw on empathy, creativity and personal experience to better others’ lives

This story is sponsored by Humber College


Working within the field of social services can be challenging and emotionally draining at times but it can also be incredibly rewarding. The demand for social service professionals has been steadily growing, especially as we approach the two year mark of the pandemic’s arrival.

“We just collectively went through the hardest 18 months that many of us have ever been through,” says Coura Niang, a professor in the Child and Youth Care diploma and degree program at Humber College. “Social services are one of the only sectors that put the human being first – relationships and connectedness are at the core of the work. It provides us with our fundamental need for human connection, which is why everyone will utilize a social service at one point in their life.”

The Humber Faculty for Social and Community Services provides education in a range of programs including Addictions and Mental Health, Behavioural Science, Child and Youth Care, Developmental Services Worker and Social Service Worker to help students better the lives of others.

While social service workers often face difficult decisions that require reflecting upon ethics and values, they’re able to better lives and create a positive impact. 

“People who are successful within the social services field have characteristics like empathy and sympathy but they also require a large degree of creativity,” says Niang. “Social service workers should be emotionally intelligent and have the willingness to reflect on their own experiences so their empathy is genuinely felt. The kind of people who do this job, I often say, it’s half calling and half character.”

Obtaining a career in children, youth and family services can help effectively promote the physical, mental and emotional health of those who need it most. The focus is on care, education, relationships and social change.

There are several reasons why students looking to enter into the social and community services field should complete their education at Humber. In addition to the inclusive and engaging culture at the campus, Humber’s faculty concentrate on research and innovation, keeping them fully immersed in the field. Instead of teaching lessons straight out of a textbook, faculty encourage students to engage in the process of discovery while learning. 

“Faculty are curious about new approaches and stay active in their community so the information being brought into the classroom is not dated or stagnant, its brand new,” she says. “Sometimes the information I bring to my students requires their invigoration in order for it to come alive in my practice.”

On top of teaching at Humber, Niang runs her own private practice and is the president of the Ontario Association of Child and Youth Care. Both keep her connected to the community, engaged in new research and incredibly mindful of inclusion.

The services and support offered to students throughout their journey at Humber sets them up for academic success that will extend well into their careers. 

“There’s a massive focus on addressing everybody’s access needs while we’re teaching courses. Accessibility and inclusion is a huge aspect of what makes the Humber space so welcoming, encouraging and a safe place to learn,” says Niang. “Post-secondary school is one of the few places in society where you’re praised and acknowledged for your ideas. Humber has this unique approach where we want our students to be creative and think about ways we can deliver social services differently.”

At the end of the Child and Youth Care diploma and degree program, the college’s career services department helps students find an employment position that best suits their interests, skill set and passions. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that employers in the community specifically seek out Humber grads. 

Graduates can find employment in three main areas: education, public health or community and social services. This includes working in foster care, residential treatment, arts programming, geriatric care, within schools and providing private tutoring for children with complex needs or concurrent disabilities. 

“My experience is that students see me and other faculty as people they can trust, ask for advice and keep in touch with as they move along in their careers,” says Niang. “Humber is a place where learning requires safety and this is provided by the faculty’s unfaltering support. Learning here is really a process of discovery.”

Browse the Children, Youth and Families collection of programs here.

Programs have intakes in the fall, winter and some in the spring, providing students with several options.

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