Hiring of more seniors’ care workers could be a boon for many

Seniors’ care is the second highest growth sector in the Thompson-Okanagan region.

By , Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal

In order to address the shortage of care aides and others who work with seniors, the BC Care Providers Association (BCCPA) has launched the #BecauseBCCares recruitment campaign, to bring attention to the enormous opportunity for careers in seniors’ care.

“In the Thompson-Okanagan region, seniors’ care is the second highest growth sector,” BCCPA CEO Daniel Fontaine tells The Journal; and he would like to see school districts working harder to promote the dual credit program to encourage students to use it as a stepping-stone to a career in seniors’ care.

In February 2017 the B.C. government promised $500 million over four years to fund 1,500 new positions in seniors’ care, including 900 new care aides, in an attempt to ensure that all seniors in care are receiving the 3.36 hours per person per day of recommended staffing care recommended. A report from the Office of the Seniors Advocate in early 2017 indicated that only 10 per cent of seniors in care were receiving that level of care.

“The $500 million was secured, and now we have to hire a lot of people,” says Fontaine. “There will be lots of new jobs; but there will also be lots of retirements.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix has said that one-quarter to one-third of those working in seniors’ care are aged 55 and older; and Fontaine says it is a very real issue.

“The owner of a fairly large care home said that the numbers are frightening. He estimates that 10 per cent of his staff will retire each year for the next five years. That means significant changes in staffing.

“Many of these facilities were opened 20 to 30 years ago, and they hired lots of staff at the same time. Now they’re all getting ready to retire.”

Fontaine says that at a recent BCCPA board of directors meeting, directors were asked to provide staff with the top issues facing them. “The majority of them said health human resources, accessing staff, mainly care aides. It’s the first time we’ve heard this. It’s very rare to have one issue cut across all the directors. And it’s only going to get more acute.”

He says that the push to get school boards onside with the dual credit program will soon be starting. Fontaine notes that in many school districts, the dual credit program is mostly promoted within male-dominated fields, such as carpentry and welding. “Districts put a lot of emphasis on male-dominated areas. Why aren’t districts putting seniors’ care as a focus in the dual credit program?

“We need to raise awareness that lots of jobs are being created in seniors’ care, and people should give them serious consideration. These are well-paying jobs with no risk of automation; and they are a great entry-level gateway for many people. You can go on to become a registered nurse.”

He adds that it is not just care aides who are being sought. “Cooks, custodians, receptionists; there are so many jobs available,” says Fontaine.

When asked about how to recruit trained personnel to rural areas, Fontaine says “I think we have to get away from the mindset of attracting people to a region, and train people in the region. If we train people in Vancouver, they’re not going to want to go to Cranbrook. You have pockets in the province where there is high youth, First Nations unemployment. We need to target these groups, make people in rural communities aware of these job opportunities and how to access them.

“But it’s a big nut to crack. How do we get from someone being interested in seniors’ care to working in seniors’ care? There’s a wait list for publicly funded spots, and people can’t necessarily afford private spots. That’s a barrier.”

Fontaine says that the BCCPA has spoken with the Ministry of Health about eliminating these barriers. “In 2007 we launched “BC Cares’, which had a small marketing campaign and helped provide some funding relief. That’s where the #BecauseBCCares campaign comes from. We want to make the private programs more affordable.”

He notes that there have been some positive interactions with Health Minister Adrian Dix and the ministry. “We hope to see something in the February budget that will get more people into seniors’ care in the next year or so.”