Who Cares for You?
CLAC Training provides many courses geared to the construction industry. Now, a new initiative in BC is tackling a crucial need in healthcare
LORALEA BUTIKOFER HAD A MAJOR PROBLEM at work. Loralea is a resource care
worker for Bethesda Christian Association in Kelowna, BC. She cares for a number of
developmentally disabled residents, helping them get up in the morning, feeding them,
clothing them, and taking care of everything else they need help with during the day.
But many of her residents have difficulty communicating. How do you care for someone
when they can’t communicate their pain, what they need, how you can help?
Loralea found the answers through courses she took provided by CLAC Training. In
Kelowna, CLAC Training has been actively developing courses over the past two years
to support the hundreds of caregivers who, like Loralea, are faced with the daunting
task of caring for residents with different developmental and cognitive challenges.
“With the autism course, we were given different methods for communicating and
how to deal with different behaviours,” she says. “I came out knowing not only more,
but also knowing that I can deal with certain things better.”
Loralea is no stranger to autism. She has a 26-year-old son with autism. She also
cares for an autistic resident and other residents who have trouble communicating.
“I’ve never had a job before where I got that kind of specific training to support my
role,” she says. “At Bethesda, we had training on how to dispense medications and
things like that, things you need on a daily basis, but nothing like this further education.
It’s very valuable to the work I do and the people I care for.”
The autism course is just one of many new courses CLAC Training has developed for
caregivers in Kelowna. From emotional intelligence to mental health first aid to end
of life/palliative care, the growing list of courses available to members and to the
public is a much-welcome help to those who care for others.
CARING FOR PEOPLE IS WHAT Loralea and
her fellow Local 501 members are so passionate
about. No one knows better what
caregivers go through and what their needs
are than Dennis Oenema, a CLAC part-time
field representative and long-time healthcare
worker currently working in the industry.
Dennis, working with Larry Richardson,
CLAC Training’s BC director, and fellow reps
Quentin Steen and Caroline Chuba, has
made it his mission to support caregivers
by providing unique training initiatives that
help them not only in their work, but also in
their personal lives.
A couple of years ago, Dennis was attending
the BC Stewards Conference. He got into
an extended conversation with a steward
who was really experiencing a tough time
in his work.
“He was working in a very difficult environment
in regard to the residents he was looking
after,” says Dennis. “Those residents
exhibited what is defined as ‘self-injuring
behaviour’ characterized by loud vocal
expressions. It can be one of the most difficult
behaviours to deal with as a caregiver—
and very challenging to address over an
“The steward had been doing this for about 15
years. He really felt down and in need of further
education to improve his skill set in dealing
with this behaviour as well as the daily
needs of others that he provides care for.”
As with many healthcare professionals, the
need for continued education beyond their
basic skills required as caregivers is difficult
for most employers to provide on a consistent
basis. Many are private contractors who
work with a limited budget.
“I thought, we need to start doing something
for members like him and others working
in the field,” says Dennis. “What can we do
right now to assist not only our members,
but also their employers? This is how the
idea of providing the compassion fatigue
course came about.”
The idea of providing courses specific to caregivers
to help them not only do their jobs better
but to handle the emotional drain they
often experience quickly blossomed. Dennis
was surprised by the demand. Members, as
well as non-members from the community,
filled up available space for the courses, coming
on their own time and paying for it themselves.
CLAC Training provides the registration
infrastructure, helping to keep costs to a minimum,
but instructors need to be paid and
there are other costs.
With courses almost always filled to capacity,
Dennis and his fellow reps looked at what
else they could offer.
“After compassion fatigue, we developed
courses in personal professional leadership
and team development,” says Dennis.
“Then, we looked at what else is needed in
our sector. When people with developmental
disabilities get older, some begin to demonstrate
symptoms of dementia. So we developed
courses to help our members deal with
With the popularity of the courses, CLAC
Training developed a certificate program. If
members complete a set of courses, they get
a certificate of completion that they can put
on their resume.
“If you educate people, you empower them,”
says Dennis. “You give them the knowledge,
which decreases the fear they might have.
Plus, it motivates them to go back to school,
which gives them more career options down
THE NEW COURSES DENNIS AND his colleagues
have developed for members are
also helping caregivers in the local community.
Lloyd Green is a non-member and
retired college instructor and program director
who volunteers with a recovery program
for young men who have come off of alcohol
or drug addictions. He teaches a group
course to help them deal with emotional
triggers and another course that teaches
them how to respond to situations they may
face in the workplace.
“I help the men go through some of the
emotional trauma that they’re suffering,”
says Lloyd. “The challenge is to get to know
where the men actually are in their journey,
to understand a little bit about their journey
and some of the reasons they’re in the situation
that they’re in. I try to be an encouragement
to them, to help them be positive
in their outlook.”
When Lloyd heard about the courses being
offered by CLAC, he signed up for the mental
health first aid and autism courses. Even
though he himself is an instructor, he found
the courses very informative.
“I would say probably 80 percent of the
course content was new to me,” says Lloyd.
“Not that I hadn't heard about some of the
content before, but I certainly didn't have an
understanding of it. Things like the definition
of mental health, some of the characteristics
of certain aspects of mental health.
“One of my students is autistic, and the
autism course gave me some real insight
in how to approach his autism. It certainly
opened up some of the frustrations autistic
people have in trying to communicate due
to our inability to understand their needs.
We received information on how not to further
frustrate the individual but how to ask
pertinent questions that makes it easier for
them to explain their situation.”
Lloyd’s wife, Colleen, also has taken advantage
of the caregiver courses CLAC Training
provides. She too is retired, having worked
for years in the legal and insurance industries,
but decided to study to become a
“I love people,” says Colleen. “Even when I
worked in the law office, I would volunteer
at the hospice, and I really enjoyed that.
“We grew up in a generation of Canadians who
often formed inappropriate attitudes toward
mental health and mental illness. I had to do
a course on dementia. It taught us to listen
and be non-judgmental, to give people assurance.
It taught us to not rush them, not to
enter into their space, but to give them space.
It taught us to respect who they are and give
them the dignity that they deserve.”
MARY WILLIAMSON HAS CARED FOR people
with dementia as well as those suffering
from mental illness. She knows that education
is the key to dispelling the stigma that
still surrounds mental health.
“There are many times when people push
mental health under the blanket, rather than
face it,” says Mary, who is employed by We
Care Home Health Services in Vernon, BC.
“The mental health courses provide a lot of
information to help the public understand
what it’s all about, and how we can help
those suffering from a mental illness.”
Mary is proof that you’re never too old to
learn. She’s a registered nurse—and has been
for 55 years! She’s taken a half dozen courses
through CLAC Training, including the mental
health first aid course and several other
mental health courses taught by Dave Phillips,
CLAC’s wellness program coordinator.
One of the things Mary likes best about the
training she’s received is that the instructors
take their time. Students also receive comprehensive
packages of the learning material,
which they can take with them and review at
“When you’re sitting in a class, you don’t
always think of questions to ask until after
you’ve gone home,” says Mary. “So it helps
that they give us the information to take
BEING A CAREGIVER IS A TOUGH, complex,
emotionally draining job not for the faint of
heart. But even caregivers need care, not only
to help them in the vital, often thankless,
work they do, but to help them deal with the
ups and downs of their profession.
Dennis is always looking for new courses
that would be helpful to members as well
as to those in the public who are caregivers,
such as Lloyd.
“It’s a real privilege to have the training
offered to non-members, to people in the
community,” says Lloyd. “Where else would
we go to get this understanding? Where
would we go to get this training? I look forward
to continuing on with any training sessions
that are being offered through CLAC.”
Along with the mental health courses, the
most popular course CLAC Training is providing
for caregivers is Compassion Fatigue/
Vicarious Trauma. To further expand the
courses and programs offered, CLAC Training
is looking to CLAC signatory companies
to step up and participate via contributions
to the Education and Training Fund. The goal
is to get the resources needed to provide
courses for free to members and at a nominal
cost to the public.
Although the courses currently are mostly
run out of CLAC’s Kelowna Member Centre,
Dennis’s vision doesn’t stop there. Eventually,
he’d like to leverage technology, such as the
Langley Member Centre’s Virtual Classroom
Training System, to bring instructors and
courses to members from across the country.
What started as an answer to a local need
brought forward by a steward at a conference
could soon be helping members in other
CLAC member centres. The steward is doing
much better. Although he still faces the same
challenges in his job, he’s able to cope now.
“It really scared me, what this guy was going
through,” says Dennis. “We had to start doing
something. And we did.”
"It's What We Do"
CLAC Training operates in all provinces where
the union represents workers. Larry Richardson,
CLAC Training’s BC director, explains the goals,
initiatives, and partnerships that are helping
members in BC get the training they need.
Q: What are some of CLAC Training’s goals in BC?
A: We have three big goals we’re working on. First,
increase our presence within the apprenticeship
program and within the training systems
in BC. Second, increase our profile with public
training providers and universities. Third, further
develop our relationships with government
so that we are involved in how training
develops within the province.
Q: What are some of the courses currently offered by
CLAC Training in BC?
A: We have a wide range of industry skill development
courses such as aerial work platform,
fall arrest—anything required on a job site.
We provide health and safety training such as
first aid and safety officer training. A number
of courses are provided online, which is convenient
Q: Other than the caregiver courses, what are some
new initiatives that have been or are being
A: CLAC believes that every member should
have the ability to attain advancement, and
our training programs are a means to help
them achieve that. But sometimes they’re not
always prepared for advancement. They may
have the technical skills but suddenly they’re
supervising and they don’t have the soft skills
to deal with people. So we developed an emotional
intelligence program. We’ve run it three
times, and it’s been extremely successful. We
had one group that flew in their people from
all over western Canada. We had 76 supervisors,
including up to the senior vice-president
level, taking the program.
Q: And how does this help members?
A: One supervisor can affect 5, 10, 50, or more
members, depending on the work site. This
training is all about making the workplace
more positive. Conflict resolution means you
have conflict in the workplace; this program
aims at conflict avoidance. It’s a proactive
way of building an environment of trust.
Q: What initiatives have you taken with Indigenous
A: A really good example right now is what
we’re doing with the Site C Dam project.
We’re working with the Peace River Hydro
Partnership and the Saulteau Nation to
develop streams of construction craft workers,
which are skilled labourers, through
training delivered from Kamloops via CLAC
Training’s Virtual Classroom Training System,
in our Langley Member Centre, into the First
Nation’s community. Students don’t have to
leave home and disrupt their lifestyle.
Q: What else does CLAC Training offer?
A: We help members and employers assess what
they need. A member will come in and say I
need training to get my first aid ticket. We ask
them, what’s the purpose for that certificate?
And then we discover that what they really
need is their industrial first aid with AED. We
are the resource to put the training together
required for the work. We understand the certificate
requirements and what they mean,
whereas the members and employers don’t
always know. That’s not their job. It’s our job.
It’s what we do as their training provider.
CLAC Training in BC
Virtual Classroom Training System (VCTS)
What Is It?
- The VCTS delivers trades-related training
to remote communities on new and existing
- A classroom in the union’s Langley training
facility connects instructors from certified
training facilities to up to 15 remote locations
- Sessions are interactive and led by a trades
training instructor from a certified training
- Students access training through laptops,
tablets, or smartphones.
- Apprentices continue to work side by side with
journeypersons to complete their training.
- Opens training to remote locations while
reducing travel costs
- Improves the quality of delivery by maximizing
the use of senior instructors
- Increases flexibility for learners through access
to a recorded library of training
- Reduces the amount of training required
to be done either out of the community or
off the job site
- Autism (levels 1–2)
- Compassion Fatigue/Vicarious Trauma (levels
- Dementia (levels 1–2)
• Mental Health First Aid (16-hour course
accredited by CMHA)
- Team and Leadership Development/Training
Fall 2016/Spring 2017
- Autism (levels 3–4)
- Compassion Fatigue/Vicarious Trauma (level 3)
- Critical Incident Debriefing/Pastoral Care
- Dementia (level 3)
- Dying and Grieving
- EM Emotional Intelligence (level 1)
- Palliative Care/End of Life Care
- Wound, Skin, and Foot Care