For those who lost their jobs in British Columbia because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the province has come up with an idea: a new career in long-term care. 

On Wednesday, provincial officials announced the Health Career Access Program as part of its $1.6-billion fall pandemic preparedness plan. The program aims to hire thousands of laid off service workers to positions in long-term care and assisted living homes across the province.

Premier John Horgan said the program is specifically designed for hospitality and service workers who’ve lost their jobs during the pandemic. 

WATCH: B.C. announce fall pandemic preparedness plan. Story continues below.

 

“[The program] provides a path for people without health-care experience to get on-the-job training. And that means, of course, good news for those in the hospitality sector and other parts of British Columbia that have been affected by COVID-19,” he said Wednesday. 

The ministry is dedicating $44.2 million to recruit, hire and train 7,000 new health-care workers over the next few months in settings  across the province. New hires will start as health-care support workers with a salary of around $20/hr, and receive paid training that will lead to full qualification as health-care assistants, which has a starting salary of around $23/hr, according to Health Minister Adrain Dix. 

While health-care assistants normally require certification from a post-secondary institution, Dix said the program will allow people with no health-care experience to get the certification while on the job, at no cost to them. 

“The program that we’re putting in place will provide a path for interested applicants to receive formal, on-the-job modular training,” Dix said.

The program aims to strengthen support in the province’s long-term care and assisted living homes ahead of the winter and ensuing influenza season. 

“These are opportunities for 7,000 good-paying jobs that focus on our common goal to keep people healthy, to keep them well, through the pandemic,” Horgan said. 

B.C.’s long-term care homes have been hard-hit by the pandemic, with dozens of facilities across the province experiencing outbreaks and the majority of COVID-19 deaths coming from long-term care settings. 

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As part of the fall preparedness program, the province has also procured 5,000 high-dose influenza vaccines for high-risk long-term care and assisted living residents. 

Interested applicants for the new health-care support workers positions can submit an “expression of interest” through the province’s website. Requirements for the health-care support worker position include a Grade 10 education, communication skills and the ability to physically carry out the duties.

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After completing basic training, new hires will receive a structured education program paid for by the province and receive credentials as a qualified health-care assistant in approximately one year.