HomeBridge, Province Offering Free, Innovative Employment Program to Help Fill Youth Care Gap

Whether it is the healthcare system or your local restaurant, it seems everywhere you go businesses and organizations are having trouble finding people to work these days. 

Child and Youth Care organizations are certainly not immune to staffing shortages. However, HomeBridge Youth Society has come up with a program they hope will help rectify this issue. In partnership with the province’s Department of Community Services, HomeBridge is launching a 5-week Learning Academy designed to produce certified graduates for a career in Child and Youth Care. What’s more, this program is delivered completely online, is free to all who are accepted, and qualifies graduates to immediately join the workforce as an entry level Child and Youth Care Practitioner working with vulnerable youth in the province. There are an abundance of employment opportunities just waiting to be filled. 

“Running an educational program was not something that HomeBridge wanted to do. The reality of our staffing shortages has become critical for operations to continue. We had to close a program due to lack of qualified employees. If we didn’t do something, we risked more closures,” explained Ernie Hilton, HomeBridge Executive Director. “Through this program we can not only ensure there are qualified candidates, we also have a greater opportunity of increasing the cultural diversity of employees to better represent the youth in our programs. The free enrollment allows for more opportunities for people to attend.”

HomeBridge currently has more than 650 hours of work bi-weekly available and also wants to reopen another service which would require 10-12 full-time and part-time positions.  Graduates of this Learning Academy can expect to be qualified to be interviewed by HomeBridge or any other child and youth care program in Nova Scotia. What happens in the interview and selection process depends on each service provider’s own service mandates and hiring criteria.

The first session begins September 5th and will run until October 6th with a second session beginning September 18th through October 20th. The program will be led by international experts in the Child and Youth Care along with local experts from the African Nova Scotian, Indigenous, and 2SLGBTQIA+ Communities.

“The instructors who are teaching the fundamentals of our relational practice are the same National and International experts who literally wrote the textbooks used in colleges and university programs for many of the modules being taught.  The best instructors are imperative,” explained Mr. Hilton.  “We also had our Cultural Program Advisor select some first voice, grass roots experts from the local African Nova Scotian Community to teach on anti-racism, unconscious-biases, and how to offer specialized, responsive, culturally safe care to African Nova Scotian youth. We were also using the same method of selecting an expert from Indigenous Communities and the 2SLGBTIA+, meaning HomeBridge is not choosing the experts, someone from their community is selecting their expert and they are building the curriculum to be used. It’s far from a perfect model, but we are hoping for the best with this very quick effort to stave off further program closures due to lack of employees. After it is over in November, we will review the feedback from instructors and learners and if we have to do more learning cohorts we will integrate the feedback to evolve the learning environment.  We couldn’t have done any of this without the support from the leadership at the Department of Community Services.”

As mentioned, the course will be delivered online, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday and each session will have approximately 30 participants. Those interested in becoming part of the Learning Academy are asked to submit a resume/CV including relevant training, experience, and education along with a brief cover letter that includes their preferred start date to learningacademey@homebridgeyouth.ca.

“The nature of our work is very intense and the learning experiences will be as well. Working with young people and understanding the complexities of their trauma is a career long journey of maintaining current competency and effectiveness,” said Mr. Hilton. “Five weeks of theory and provocative, scenario discussion is merely scratching the surface of becoming an effective practitioner in our field. This work requires a journey of learning and continuous training that should never stop. It is demanding work, with serious impacts if you are not proficient. The harm we can cause with recklessness can be life altering for the young people we try to serve. The same is true if we are competent, capable care givers, we can help them change their lives for the better.”

HomeBridge believes in the strength and resilience of vulnerable youth.  Through six youth care settings, an accredited school and both arts and recreation based therapeutic, life-skills programs, they work to help these young people heal from their past trauma, build healthy relationships and develop the skills and awareness to be their best self.  They have been offering services to vulnerable youth for over 45 years and see approximately 100 youth per year in their programs. 

For more information on HomeBridge Youth Society and this exciting opportunity, visit www.homebridgeyouth.ca

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