by Ethan Paquet
Last October, PEI Literacy Alliance launched a second cohort of the 10-week Essential Employability Skills Health Sector program to help prepare participants for work in long-term care homes and other healthcare settings. There were daily online classes led by the course facilitator, Phil Davison, and some in-person sessions as COVID-19 restrictions allowed.
“Holding the program online allowed us to work with participants from across PEI,” says Program Coordinator Lily Reaman. “We had participants from Alberton to Cardigan.”
Topics and skills covered by the program included digital literacy skills, numeracy skills and more. Participants also took part in training for CPR, WHMIS, Psychological First Aid, and Gentle Persuasive Approach Dementia Care.
A variety of guest speakers presented on topics such as financial planning and debt management, accessing mental health services on PEI, resumé and cover letter writing, job searching, and programs, courses, and funding available to further the participants’ career opportunities.
In addition to this valuable training, the program helped participants in other ways, Lily says.
“This program helps participants improve their confidence and their financial situations, which immediately benefits them and their families. It lifts people up, dusts them off, and places them back on the pathway to success, all while helping fill vital positions in healthcare on PEI.”
Lily says six-week work placements were secured so participants could put their knowledge to use and gain work experience in the healthcare field through partner employers. “The program pays for 50 percent of the participant\’s wages up to 40 hours per week. After the first six weeks, the employers typically offer continuing employment to the participants.”
The successful program participants now work in positions such as Geriatric Care Attendants, Resident Assistants, Activities Coordinators, Dietary Aides and more. Partner employers include The Mount Continuing Care Community, PEI Seniors Homes, and MacLeod Cares Group.
Participants tell their stories
Jocelyn Constable: She recently started her work placement and has already been offered a 95 percent full-time position going into her third week.
“Work is going amazing! I am so happy. I wake up excited to go to work in such a rewarding job. Yes, some days are challenging and I go home tired, but still very amazing work! I am thinking about going back to school in September for either RCW or LPN. I can\’t thank you enough for this life-changing opportunity. It has been so good for my mental health as well.”
Brianna Younker: “I’m really enjoying working at The Mount. The staff and the residents are all very nice and I’m learning a lot. I can definitely see myself working in this type of career in the future.”
Jennifer Martin Moore: She says being isolated from others throughout the pandemic left her feeling like she didn’t have much to offer as she considered re-entering the workplace. She said it was a challenge to access the community supports she needed at the time. This program helped her realize she wasn’t alone.
“I made new friends, learned a lot about the healthcare sector, and gained new skills and certifications for the future. Most of all I realized that although we are living in very unpredictable times, we are not alone.”
Jennifer plans to soon start a work placement as a Resident Attendant at Whisperwood Villa. She believes anyone looking at gaining meaningful employment could benefit from the program.
“This program gives individuals with any background the opportunity to have an excellent chance at gaining meaningful employment, and it brought together a group of people that become a support system for one another.”
Lily’s advice to anyone who is hindered by a lack of employability skills or literacy skills is to never give up.
“Reach out to the supports in your community, such as Career Development Services, SkillsPEI, PEI Literacy Alliance, Workplace Learning PEI, The Employment Journey, and anyone else who can help you make a change for your future.”
Funding for this program was from the Government of Canada’s National Essential Skills Initiatives program.