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Free tuition aims to fill B.C.’s health care assistant vacancies

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WATCH: B.C. has a shortage of health care assistants and the pandemic has only made that worse. Now a program that provides free education for those looking to enter the profession is trying to fill that gap. As Megan Turcato reports, a new cohort of Okanagan students will start training next month and could be working in local care homes by the end of the year – Jan 26, 2022

B.C. has a shortage of health care assistants and the pandemic has only made that worse.

But a program that provides free education for those looking to enter the profession is trying to fill that gap.

Read more: Okanagan care home offers free program to deal with severe care aide shortage

A new cohort of Okanagan students will start training next month and could be working in local care homes by the end of the year.

The training program is needed because, while a large number of people have become care aides in the last year, the BC Care Providers Association estimates there are still hundreds of unfilled jobs.

“The demand before COVID was high and there was a lot of vacancies in these positions around the province,” said Terry Lake, the CEO of the BC Care Providers Association.

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“COVID made that worse in a number of ways: some people left the sector because of COVID and the single-site order means you can only work in one care home at a time. So that increased the number of health care assistants that were needed across the sector.”

With the help of government grant funding, the BC Care Providers Association, which represents seniors facilities around the province, is working with Discovery Community College to provide a free 38-week training program for those interested in becoming care aides.

Read more: Coronavirus: Okanagan care aides concerned about possible COVID-19 outbreak at long-term homes

The college said past graduates of the Health Care Assistant Training Program have found employment right away.

“There is really no stutter in employment,” said Joanne Funk, the director of student operations the college’s health and human sciences programs.

“Those employers are trying to capture them before they are finished their training and they are graduated…If a student has those right skills and a great attitude they get to pick really where they want to work.”

Read more: ‘My mum is a health-care hero’: Family, friends mourn loss of Alberta health-care worker who died of COVID-19

A cohort of over 30 aspiring health care assistants will start the program in Vernon and Kelowna next month.

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“We have such a need to care for our vulnerable population. Our senior citizens need well-trained health care professionals to be at long-term care facilities [and] at assisted living. Our goal is to try to alleviate the pressure that the current health care workers are experiencing right now,” Funk said.

The training program is still taking applications for the upcoming Vernon and Kelowna sessions.

Graduates are expected to be filling job vacancies by the end of 2022.

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