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June 8, 2020 10:59 AM

Conestoga granted $1.2M to support workforce innovation

The Government of Canada’s Future Skills Centre, a research and collaboration hub dedicated to preparing Canadians for employment success and meeting the emerging talent needs of employers, today announced an investment of close to $1.2M for the development of a new program from Conestoga College that will help care workers across Canada develop essential skills for assisting those living with dementia.

The Canadian Remote Access for Dementia Learning Experiences (CRADLE) program, to be developed and delivered through Conestoga’s Schlegel Centre for Advancing Seniors Care, will provide online training for personal support workers (also known as unregulated care workers) who provide support for those living with dementia in the community, or in nursing or retirement homes. The program will be available across the country to help address urgent skilled labour shortages and maximize workplace engagement, with a particular emphasis on rural areas that have limited access to training.

“Unregulated care workers comprise the largest paid workforce in Canada’s health care system,” said Dr. Veronique Boscart, Executive Director of the Schlegel Centre. “By providing additional opportunities for these workers to access the specialized training they need to address the complexities in dementia care, we hope not only to enhance the skill level of this essential group of care workers, but also to increase their job satisfaction and engagement, leading to improved workforce retention.”

The CRADLE program will include interactive online modules, video clips and discussion forums to help workers develop additional skills for managing the symptoms of dementia. Currently, more than a half million Canadians are living with dementia, with approximately 25,000 additional cases diagnosed each year. Analysts suggest that by 2031, the number of people in Canada living with dementia will approach 1,000,000.

The program was one of 30 projects to be selected for funding by the Future Skills Centre (FSC). The $37M investment announced on June 8 will contribute to the skills development ecosystem and help prepare Canadians for the future of work.

According to Executive Director Pedro Barata, providing interactive learning opportunities to previously isolated health care workers is a perfect example of the programs FSC is investing in to build an inclusive workforce of the future that leaves no one behind.

“Up to 50,000 caregivers will be able to learn and engage with each other like never before and test the effectiveness of this expansive and efficient delivery model,” Barata said.

Conestoga is working with an expansive network of industry and community partners who are contributing almost $1.8M in support for the project. Currently in development, the CRADLE program is expected to be available by January 2021.

“We greatly appreciate FSC’s investment and the support of our partners in this important initiative,” said Conestoga President John Tibbits. “We look forward to launching this new project that will support skills development and address pressing workforce needs while improving the quality of life and care for some of Canada’s most vulnerable seniors.”

The Schlegel Centre for Advancing Seniors Care focuses on education, workforce development and applied research focused on the development of highly qualified personnel to serve Canada’s growing population of seniors. The Centre is led by Dr. Veronique Boscart, CIHR/Schlegel Industrial Research Chair for Colleges (IRCC) in Seniors Care. The research chair is funded by the Natural Sciences Research Council of Canada (NSERC) in partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Conestoga College and Schlegel Villages.

For more information, visit www.conestogac.on.ca/centres/seniors-care/

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