By Kirk Starratt
For PeopleWorx Continuing Care Assistant program graduates, success represents a new beginning in life. They’re on their way to a highly rewarding career and, just as importantly, self-sufficiency.
Diane Cutler of Kentville said her daughter is a personal support worker in Ontario, the equivalent of a continuing care assistant in Nova Scotia. Cutler said she’d study with her daughter over the phone and it sounded exciting.
“In this case, it wasn’t the daughter taking after the mom, it was the mom taking after the daughter,” Cutler said.
Cutler attended PeopleWorx looking for an employment opportunity, took an assessment and determined being a continuing care assistant would be a field of work that would suit her well. She was soon accepted into the program.
Cutler used to do social work and decided that at this point in her life, it was time to figure out what she wanted to do. Cutler is excited to be graduating and has already found a job with VON. She said the 10-month journey has been worth every step.
There is demand for continuing care assistants with an aging demographic, she said, and it’s important for new people to come into the field. She wants to work with seniors to improve their quality of life and make this stage of life as comfortable as possible, whether it’s helping them clean or simply sitting and chatting with them.
“When I see the clients, I see my mom and I see my dad,” she said. “Some don’t have social interaction in their lives. For me, that’s a big part.”
Cutler said PeopleWorx offers amazing support. You learn a lot about yourself taking the program, she adds.
“They make it fun,” she said. “It gets your brain and your heart going. The classroom itself becomes one big family.”
Thomas McGillis of New Minas said his girlfriend’s step-mom is a continuing care assistant. She took the training program a few years ago and, through her, he learned about the field of work. McGillis was working as a dishwasher at a New Minas restaurant and decided he wanted a change. He called to find out when the program was going to be offered again and was soon accepted.
“I looked at my life and decided I wanted to get up in the morning and make a difference,” he said.
McGillis said it’s difficult to put into words how he feels to be graduating, but it’s amazing. His mother was a personal care worker and he feels he’s following in her footsteps. He enjoys helping other people and said you have to be comfortable touching people if you want to work as a continuing care assistant. McGillis has already found work with Shannex in Kentville.
“If I can help a person put on their socks, I’m making a person’s day and making some kind of a difference,” McGillis said. “A pay cheque is a bonus. We’re always getting paid with gratitude.”
He was one of only three men in his class and there aren’t very many men working in the field. However, there is a high demand for male continuing care assistants.
Tabitha Keddy of Kentville came home from Edmonton to help her father, who was terminally ill with cancer. She had graduated high school, but found there weren’t a lot of job opportunities in the Valley. Keddy met with a career counsellor because she didn’t want a minimum wage job; she wanted a career where she could support her children.
After an assessment, she was soon accepted into the PeopleWorx program. Keddy said it felt amazing to graduate because it represents a new beginning in her life.
You have your ups and downs with any job, she acknowledges, but she finds you have many more ups when working with clients as a continuing care assistant.
“To go to work and enjoy it makes a difference,” Keddy said.
She said there is a lot of unemployment and under-employment in the Valley, and Keddy wanted to demonstrate to her children that if she could do it, so can they. Keddy will also be working with Shannex in Kentville.
The graduates wrote their provincial certification exam Jan. 25.
Student success rewarding for program manager
It’s extremely rewarding to see so many graduates experiencing life-changing success through their Continuing Care Assistant program.
PeopleWorx programs manager Shawnna Sequeira said they usually take in 20 or 22 students for the 10-month program. Graduation ceremonies, such as the one at the Kentville fire hall on Jan. 18, are extremely positive and emotional.
“For some of these individuals, they’ve never graduated from a program before,” Sequeira said.
The Continuing Care Assistant program builds self-confidence, she said, and program graduates are now on a very secure career path.
Sequeira said they have an intensive screening program that targets a certain group of individuals, mainly those who are unemployed or underemployed who want to become self-sufficient and independent.
There are other educational institutions across the province delivering the program, such as the Nova Scotia Community College. The province sets the program curriculum, but Sequeira said they add to this at PeopleWorx.
“I feel that’s why we’ve had such a great success rate with students,” she said.
Instructors and staff work closely with students and get to know them well. Sequeira said PeopleWorx is there to help students and clients with anything the individual has deemed a barrier to employment.
The PeopleWorx Continuing Care Assistant program has enjoyed a 100 per cent success rate to date in terms of students becoming provincially certified.
Did you know?
- Founded in 1986, PeopleWorx Society is a non-profit, registered charity. They’re currently located in the Opportunity Centre in Coldbrook.
- Since 2008, PeopleWorx has offered five Continuing Care Assistant programs in Coldbrook and two in Middleton with a total of 135 graduating students. A total of 115 have written the Continuing Care Assistant provincial exam and are now certified. This represents a 100 per cent success rate for provincial certification. The 20 most recent graduates have yet to write exams.
- Program funding is made possible through a program called The One Journey Work and Learn Initiative. This is managed by the Department of Labour and Advanced education.
- Provincial bursary dollars are provided through long-term care facility partners, which are funded through the Department of Health and Wellness. For more information on the bursary program, visit www.gov.ns.ca/health/ccs/cc_careers.asp.
- For more information on the Continuing Care Assistant program or other PeopleWorx programs, contact programs manager Shawnna Sequeira at 679-7591 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Typically, without supportive, tuition-free training, most PeopleWorx clients would remain underemployed or unemployed. Issues requiring support and advocacy are usually found by examining several determinants of health, including income, education, housing, food insecurity, social exclusion, social safety network and health services.