“Because we have grown so much, we are struggling to fill positions,” says Frank Costa, Executive Director of Community Connections Inc. in Summerside.
“We are finding good candidates to hire, but not enough of them.”
They provide a range of employment, residential, and support services to adults with intellectual disabilities in East Prince. They assist individuals to develop to their full potential, provide support to access and use community resources, and empower clients to contribute and participate in a meaningful way within their community.
“We have grown from about 60 clients and 22 staff, to 132 clients and about 80 to 100 staff, including casuals,” says Frank.
Employees are members of the UPSE union and have permanent positions or are on a casual list. “When a full-time position comes up, we will first consider people on our casual list.”
Frank says a lot of growth is occurring in their housing supports. “About 81 of our clients are receiving some type of residential housing through the agency.”
Community Connections has a day-time employment program at the Community Connections facility on Water Street. An Employment Outreach Program is located on Court Street. The housing locations are at Saunders Place, McEwen Road, Winter Street, Barbara Weit Road, and two homes on Highland Avenue.
About the staff
“Most people who come to work with us tend to stay with us,” says Frank. “Some have been here 20 or 30 years. Most of our staff are female. We have a lot of male clients, so we would welcome more male employees.
“Most of the staff are Community Support Workers or Residential Support Workers. Eight people work in administration and do not have a caseload.”
A wide variety of shifts are available, including daytime, evening, overnight, weekends, or 24-hour care. A staff team of four to five people support the residents of each house.
Residential Support Workers could have a background in Human Services, RCW, LPN, Youth Worker, psychology or social work.
People working in Day Services, which also includes the Employment Outreach Program, need a diploma in Human Services or a degree in psychology or social work. “We have clients with a wide variety of needs,” says Denise MacLean, Coordinator of Human Resources. “We have clients who are dealing with issues within the Autism Spectrum, as well as physical and intellectual disabilities.
“When we interview for staff, we need to figure out where each new hire will best fit our clients’ needs. Some clients need help with personal care, but others may have behaviour issues and need some direction and structure.”
“This job does not suit everybody,” says Frank. “When we hire someone, we look for their ability to develop a relationship with our clients, and for their commitment. We would like to see them stay with us long-term.”
Holland College training in demand
Frank says they usually look for staff through the Holland College Human Services program. “That program is not graduating enough students to meet our demand,” says Frank. “The same number of students is graduating, but everybody wants them now. We have met with the college to see about increasing the number of students they train.”
Fifty percent of the client population is less than 36 years old. “One issue with housing is aging parents who can no longer look after their children,” says Denise. “However, the norm is after high school, parents want their adult children to be more independent.”
Usually Denise and one supervisor handle the job interviews. “We ask a lot of situational questions,” says Denise. “We want to know about the candidates’ personality and if they will fit into our culture.”
- What do you know about Community Connections?
- When is it ok to break the rules? There are no wrong answers, and we are just trying to see where the candidate might fit best.
- Have you ever had an issue with a co-worker? How did you deal with it?
- If your co-workers used three words to describe you, what would they say?
“Our hiring is not based just on credentials. Personality is so important. We also want the staff to know that the clients are their employer, and they have a say. We pay attention to clients’ feedback and we aim for happy clients and happy staff.”
Wages and benefits
Frank says they offer a consistent number of work hours, long-term employment, and a medical, dental, and pension plan. Pay starts at $17.21 per hour.
There is a six-step pay scale, which goes up every year after a positive evaluation. Wages range up to $21.44 per hour for both community support workers and residential support workers.
“Part of our recruitment strategy is to offer full benefits to a staff person who moves from a casual to a permanent position with a minimum of 20 hours per week on a consistent basis.”
“We provide first-aid training,” says Denise. “Also, every year, we all take Mandt training, which is a non-aggressive, non-aversive way of working with adults. It is all about respect and dignity. It is good for building relationships with co-workers, clients, and in your own personal life. We also offer other training related to their jobs.”
For more information about Community Connections, call 902-436-7576 or e-mail [email protected].