Who Cares for You?
/ Author: Alison Brown
/ Categories: Guide magazine, Health Care /
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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 eight-hour shift. 

“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 those challenges.” 

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 road.” 

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 healthcare assistant. 

“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 their leisure. 

“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 with us.” 

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 for members. 

Q: Other than the caregiver courses, what are some new initiatives that have been or are being developed? 

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 people? 

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 job sites. 
  • A classroom in the union’s Langley training facility connects instructors from certified training facilities to up to 15 remote locations simultaneously. 
  • Sessions are interactive and led by a trades training instructor from a certified training facility.
  • Students access training through laptops, tablets, or smartphones.
  •  Apprentices continue to work side by side with journeypersons to complete their training.


VCTS Benefits

  • 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

Caregiver Courses


  • Autism (levels 1–2)
  • Compassion Fatigue/Vicarious Trauma (levels 1–2)
  • 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 


Fall 2017

  • Eating Disorders


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