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Ecumen Bethany Community receives workforce grant

Ecumen Bethany Community has received a $25,000 Workforce Solutions Grant from the LeadingAge Minnesota Foundation to help recruit new employees to senior care and to retain them after they are hired.

While demand for senior care in the Alexandria area is increasing, the available workforce is shrinking. Ecumen Bethany Community is using the grant money to develop a multi-faceted education and training program that includes mentoring and community outreach.

Bethany is creating a "peer mentor" program for newly hired nursing assistants to support them during their first 90 days of employment. Experienced employees will help train and guide them in a structured approach to becoming familiar with their new jobs. Also, becoming a mentor is a new path for established employees to grow their careers and compensation.

"We've found that most turnover in senior care happens in the first 90 days of employment," said Matthew Fischer, executive director at Ecumen Bethany. "Having experienced peers guide new employees through the adjustment process is one way we can stay ahead of issues that might prompt new hires to leave."

Additionally, Bethany is partnering with Alexandria Community and Technical College to create a program that will help educate younger adults on the benefits and rewards of a career in senior care.

"We believe we can recruit more young employees simply by giving them a better sense of what a senior care career is really like," Fisher said. "There are a lot of negative stereotypes that we can overcome with accurate information and testimonials from current employees."

He said Bethany will be creating a video aimed at high school and college students to highlight senior care opportunities and the rewards of the work, as well as scholarships available to enhance employees' careers.

LeadingAge Minnesota, the state's largest association of aging services providers, was awarded the grant through a program funded by the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies (MACP), a foundation that takes a strong interest in workforce issues in rural Minnesota. MCAP supported the $1 million Workforce Solutions Grant program to improve the experience of care for older adults by funding emerging and proven workforce strategies that increase the quality, quantity and capacity of the caregiving workforce.

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