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A public private partnership for basic skills training.

Kentucky nursing homes are facing a work force problem that is probably not all that unusual: A 1993 survey found that half of all Kentuckians lack the math and science skills necessary to compete in today's workplace. Headlines have called the state's high rate of adult illiteracy "shocking," and every major paper in the state has pointed to a general decline in both work ethic and basic skills.

Those work force shortcomings are colliding with the needs of an industry, long-term care, that has become one of the largest, fastest-growing and most stable in Kentucky. Nursing homes and other long-term-care providers employ about 25,000 care-givers, and annual payrolls in the field will soon exceed $300 million. Competing, as they do, with every other Kentucky industry that hires entry-level workers, nursing homes have had to aggressively tackle the challenge of improving the basic skill levels of new employees. The Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities (KAHCF), which represents 266 for-profit nursing homes, has joined with the Kentucky Cabinet for Workforce Development to create a Job Advantage Program. The program is designed to make nursing home positions more attractive to entry-level employees and to encourage them to stay in the jobs they take.

"Our philosophy is that earning the Job Advantage certificate will encourage employees to stay in the health care profession, inasmuch as he or she will have the necessary skills to enter a technical training program that might lead to a higher paying position," explains Ruthann Phillips, Branch Manager for Workplace Essential Skills for the Kentucky Department for Adult Education and Literacy. "In short," she continues, "It will launch these employees onto a career path and make them more valuable to their employers."

The Job Advantage Program will lead to certification in basic skills for five groups of health-care employees:

Dietary Aides Nurse Aides Clerical Support Personnel Environmental Services Staff Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN)

All such employees, including new hires, will be eligible to participate in the Job Advantage Program's basic skills training.

Ken Urlage, a Kentucky nursing home administrator, explains the importance of this approach: "The five positions being trained are the core of a nursing home's ability to offer quality nursing home care. Administrators and management staff need to recognize that these employees can make or break our business. They need to be appreciated and listened to, trained so they can be effective, paid well, and recognized for the good they do."

The program has been designed to provide applied and occupation-specific instruction in math, reading, writing, communications and general problem-solving. This would enable dietary aides, for instance, to calculate amounts in food preparation, clerical staff to write sensitive letters, LPNs to better determine priorities, housekeepers to read labels on cleaning chemicals; and janitors to communicate better. It also includes a job-readiness component for teaching the attitudes and work habits needed to succeed in any job.

A worker's competency level will be determined at the start of the program, and then the gap between skills possessed and those desired will be closed by individualized instruction. At the end a certification test will be administered. This certification, while valuable for assessing basic skill levels, does not replace the mandatory 75-hour Kentucky nurse aide training program or any other state certification programs.

Development of the curriculum began with a 13-person committee representing business, industry and labor. The specific nursing home jobs were selected, and interviews were conducted with workers to find out what basic skills they really needed to function. Expert opinion was also solicited to determine what skills are needed for an employee to advance within an occupation for at least the next decade. Job analyses were performed by a "working-profile system " administered by the University of Kentucky.

Currently undergoing pilot testing, the Job Advantage Program is scheduled to be fully implemented this fall both through local adult education centers throughout the state and in nursing homes, where it may be conducted by the home's own trainer.

In sum, KAHCF and the state view the program as one example of the type of public/private partnership needed these days to meet society's, and the workforce's, basic needs, and thus build for the future.

Shirley Lamon is Director of Professional Development for the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities.
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Title Annotation:Kentucky; nursing homes
Author:Lamon, Shirley
Publication:Nursing Homes
Date:Sep 1, 1995
Words:710
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