Aging Canadian population yields abundant work opportunities
by Agnes Chung
Canadian health care is in dire need of help as the population ages. A 2018 report from the Conference Board of Canada estimates that the Canadian senior population will increase from 16.9 percent in 2018 to 21 percent in 2028. Over the next decade, 5.1 million Canadians will reach age 65.
The Health Care and Social Assistance industry in British Columbia will see the largest increase in job openings (148,400 jobs) in the next 10 years, according to WorkBC Labour Market Outlook (2018). Forty-five percent of the jobs will replace retiring workers, while 46 percent will be in response to the growing medical needs of an aging population.
The aging population creates ample employment in seniors care services such as long term care, assisted living and home support. Despite general public awareness of our aging society, little is done across the nation to prepare for the labour shortage that has already started.
The seniors care sector faces a critical shortage of continuing care workers, particularly Health Care Assistants, according to Daniel Fontaine, chairperson of the Canadian Association for Long Term Care and CEO of BC Care Providers Association (BCCPA).
The labour shortage is driven by factors including a lack of awareness of the quality job opportunities and career rewards. When asked what BCCPA is doing to attract a younger generation of workers to enter the sector, Fontaine says they have launched several initiatives.
“At an industry level, BCCPA is actively advocating and promoting with school boards province-wide to implement a dual credit program. The dual credit program allows students to train as a carer perhaps, as a pathway to becoming a licensed practical or registered nurse.”
“Right now very few school boards offer the continuing care program as part of their dual credit program, which basically allows you to graduate Grade 12 and be a certified carer so you can start work right away. You don’t have to spend additional funds to get training.”
Fontaine thinks the program has been relatively successful in the last year with the Vancouver School Board requesting to increase the number of spaces for students as a result of their advocacy.
“Our ‘40 for 40’ was a pilot program where we asked 40 students who were studying or had an interest in seniors care as a vocation to apply to us. We would bring them to our conference in Whistler (the largest industry conference west of Toronto) and integrate them into the program.”
Students are offered an opportunity to share their ideas, learn about the latest initiatives and innovations in seniors care and network with industry professionals. Now in its third year, the program brings in mainly college and university students.
So far, the program has been highly successful, according to Fontaine. The students become champions and ambassadors when they return to their educational institutions. BCCPA is looking to turn the initiative into a more permanent program, given the pilot project funds are running out next year.
BCCPA has been actively running campaigns (including radio and social media) province-wide to raise awareness of job opportunities in health care, particularly the seniors care sector.
Members, including care homes, are actively recruiting and participating in career job fairs and holding lectures. Fontaine explains that the carer work doesn’t get a lot of attention compared to other sectors like mining, forestry or tourism.
Every February, the Minister of Health gives out two Care Provider of the Year Awards: one for home care, the other for residential care. BCCPA chooses the two winners nominated by its members. Applicant numbers have risen significantly since the awards’ inception five years ago.
In development is a new industry-led seniors care recruitment plan modelled after the successful BC Cares initiative that ran from 2007-2013. Fontaine says they have been working with labour unions, the provincial government and all the stakeholders to support the BC Cares initiative.
“We have a whole recruitment program ready to roll out hopefully in 2019. That will be province-wide and will be targeted towards younger generations as well as the new immigrants.”
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix introduced legislation on November 8 to repeal Bill 29 and Bill 94. This will end rampant contract-flipping in health care and protect workers’ pay and benefits, while providing more stable care for seniors. Dix is quoted as saying, “This legislation will help to enhance the team-based care environment people count on at every level, from hospitals to care homes and in the community. With an aging population, now is the time to inspire a new generation of health-sector workers and we need to attract more care-aides, community health and hospital workers throughout the province.”