Johann Diermann came to live in Montreal after he fell in love with a Québécoise he met in the U.S., but with his background as head monk of a Hindu monastery in New York City, needed some help to find suitable work here.
A German national, he entered a job-search course at Ometz, the non-profit social services agency supported by the Jewish community’s Federation CJA, and there heard about its training program for caregivers.
He liked the pitch, which, he recalled in an interview, asked: “Would you like to be highly employable by summer? Would you find it meaningful to work with seniors? Would you like flexible working hours?”
It sounded just right. He had helped people as a meditation coach and cared for his dad in 2013 who was living with dementia. Diermann applied to the Ometz program in the winter, was accepted, followed the 18-week course, and found work almost immediately.
Initiated ten years ago, the program was set up to provide trained workers for the growing demographic of seniors who are living with various debilitating health conditions, including Alzheimer’s and dementia, and need support.
The program proved to be an immediate success, and since its inception officials there say it has produced about 150 graduates, some three-quarters of whom have found work in the field. Those that want to work in the senior care industry have no difficulty getting jobs.
Diermann paid the $550 course fee, enrolled in the program and attended its two months of classes, followed by a two-month internship, in his case at the Vista senior residence on Côte St. Luc Rd.
The academic side of the program is built on lectures from experts and specialized training with examination in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and First Aid certification, PDSB (Principe de déplacements sécuritaire des bénéficiaires) or safe transfer certification, and the Core Training Program on Alzheimer Disease Certification.
Within a few weeks of graduating, he found work after scanning the eldercare.com website where he saw an ad in search of a man to look after a person with dementia. It just so happened the family wanted someone who speaks German, as Diermann does. He started that job part-time while the man was still in hospital and after his release, the family hired him to work full time, 35 hours a week.
Lori Rubinger, director of Strategic initiatives at Ometz, said she got the idea from the then–coordinator of volunteers at the CLSC René Cassin, while examining with her possible internship opportunities for people looking for jobs.
“She said we really need friendly-visitor type people, personal support workers.”
Rubinger discussed the idea with others in the field, and developed the basic elements of the program. She also contacted people in the senior-care industry – seniors’ care centres and assisted living facilities – to establish the internship side of it.
The number of candidates in each group is limited to 12, and the Ometz program does not act as an employment agency, and so is not involved in placement of graduates. They are expected to find their own jobs after completing the course.
For the internship program, Ometz developed partnerships with such groups as the Alzheimer’s Society, Heart and Stroke Foundation, and with the Quebec government to approve the credentials of their trainees. Their participation ensures that the training meets the needs of the community the caregivers will serve. The skills taught are essential, said Sharon Bishin, Ometz employability co-ordinator and trainer.
“One of the first questions graduates are asked is: “Do you have your PDSB card (for safe transfer of patients), and CPR?”
“This is the way we make them employable.”
Those who express interest in signing up for the program range from 30 to 70 years old with many looking for a different path in their career.
Some are attracted by the possibility of flexible hours while others have a “soft spot for seniors”, have cared for family members and realized this is rewarding work, Bishin said.
“It’s often a new chapter in their lives.”
Some of the candidates may be receiving benefits from Emploi-Québec, are looking for work, and are ready to enter the training program to get there. Emploi Québec does credit the program as part of the job-search requirement the unemployed are expected to undertake while they are receiving government support and those who are approved to follow it get additional funds, Bishin explained.
In some cases, Ometz can help applicants who are a good fit for the program but can’t afford to pay the full amount of the course fee, or at least not initially.
All candidates go through a police check before they are approved to see if any have a criminal record, because they work with a vulnerable population. The current group started its 18-week training Sept. 4. Depending on demand, the course can be given twice a year, and one year participants focused on caring for those with autism. The course is given in English, and Bishin says it requires commitment, because it is
intensive – 18 weeks of learning from 9 am to 3 pm, five days a week.
Bishin gives trainees a week-long workshop on how to find work. Those of us with ageing parents know how important this work is, how eager the senior care community is to find qualified care workers who have been trained, supervised, and monitored, and how grateful we are that they are looked after with kindness and skill.