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Julene Sawatzky, regional lead for human resources for Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority (IERHA), said strong connections with education institutes are crucial to stabilize staffing.

“Working in health care has to become more accessible, so expanding the number of ways that people can enter the health workforce is critical,” she said.

“Since many health careers require training by certifying bodies — including registered nurse, licensed practical nurse (LPN) and certified health-care aide —we have cultivated strong working relationships with post-secondary institutions working in the region. Currently we’re working with Assiniboine Community College and Red River College Polytechnic. University of Manitoba is also a major partner for registered nurses, where a key focus is increasing practicum placements in the region.”

In addition, community-based organizations like Fieldstone Ventures education and training centre are working to connect communities to local post-secondary training.

“The partnership between Fieldstone Ventures and the community of Arborg would be a key example that has successfully brought licensed practical nursing and certified health-care aide training to that part of the northwest part of the region,” Sawatzky said.

“Similarly, the community of Beausejour and surrounding municipalities have worked to secure a building and have licensed practical nursing and certified health-care aide training brought to their community through Assiniboine Community College’s rotating LPN training. This IERHA-dedicated training is wrapping up in Arborg after graduating two consecutive classes of LPNs.”

In spite of these programs, Sawatzky said some people in local communities across the region still face barriers to gain employment in health care.

“Travel to a different community may not be an option and taking any time off from paid employment may not be feasible. For this reason, starting in June 2023, we piloted a community-based health-care aide micro-credential on-the-job training opportunity in five communities as a way of removing barriers that many face in joining the health workforce,” she said.

“This pilot project brought training and employment opportunities to the communities of Fisher Branch, MASH (Manigotagan, Agaming, Seymourville, Hollow Water First Nation), Selkirk, Lake Manitoba First Nation and Lac du Bonnet. Among those five communities, 34 individuals gained training and an opportunity to work in their community in a personal care home or in home care.”

For those interested in health-care education, here are a few options close to home provided by some of the training institutions that are currently in collaboration with IERHA.

Fieldstone Ventures

Fieldstone Ventures aims to facilitate skills development and training opportunities for adults in the northwest Interlake region. For more than two decades, Fieldstone Ventures has worked with communities all the way from St. Laurent to Dauphin River.

“We travel to all the communities within our region and the five First Nations when time permits. In the last six years, we have moved over to the Arborg area with the intentions of offering the same services there as what is offered here along Highway 6,” Fieldstone Ventures manager Julie Bergner said.

“The services we provide are not available north of Selkirk, so we felt it a fit to join in with Arborg when approached on the opportunity to bring LPN training to the area.”

Over the past four years, Fieldstone Ventures, ACC, community representatives and IERHA have partnered on the LPN program locally. Since the Central Interlake Training Facility opened in Arborg, one LPN training program has concluded and the second is now underway with graduation expected to occur this spring. Of the 25 graduates from the first course offering, 16 took positions with IERHA.

“We work back and forth on identifying what positions need to be filled and constantly work on bringing training to the region locally. The staff at IERHA have been amazing to work with,” Bergner said.

“We also ran a successful health-care aide program in 2016-17, which saw 16 students graduate and all 16 obtaining work in the area. The training facility is within a 100-kilometre radius of the areas we serve so it can be accessed by people within our catchment area. We currently have seven students in the LPN training in Arborg who reside on the west side, with 15 students in the class in total.”

When it comes to community partnerships, Bergner said they’re all working towards the same goal — to bring training and employed personnel to the area.

“Having a diversified board of directors helps get the message out. Our board of directors is comprised of different organizations, including IERHA and one member from each of the municipal councils, as well as the Lakeshore School Division,” she said.

“We are funded through Manitoba Jobs & Skills Development Centre to provide the employment assistance services to the regions, so we follow their guidelines when it comes to training and employment.”

Fieldstone Ventures is always seeking new board members, and all board meetings are open to the public.

“Most of the members now are from the Ashern area. We would welcome new members from surrounding communities. This we feel would benefit their groups as well. We are not limited to only training in Ashern or Arborg,” she said. “If we can find suitable facilities in other locations, we would entertain bringing training there also.”  

Fieldstone Ventures tries to offer courses that are in demand, including those to train nursing and health-care aides.

“We offered a paramedic training course in 2010 and this is something we are looking at again. In most cases, the training we offer through the colleges and universities must meet the labour market demand,” Bergner said.

“If the jobs are not available at the end of training, we will not bring it forward. We work with IERHA and Manitoba Jobs & Skills Development Centre from Selkirk to determine the needs and go from there.”

Anyone looking for information on training through Fieldstone Ventures can call their office at 204-768-3797. Bergner said they’re always open to training suggestions.

Anyone looking for information on training through Fieldstone Ventures can call their office at 204-768-3797. Bergner said they’re always open to training suggestions.

Assiniboine Community College

Similarly, Assiniboine Community College aims to transform lives and strengthen Manitoba through applied education and research — including opportunities in local communities.

“Assiniboine Community College is very much about bringing education closer to home in all rural Manitoba communities, and, as such, works in partnership with industry to meet labour market demand,” said Suzanne Nicolas, dean of nursing at Assiniboine Community College.

Community partnerships pave the way to determine if education programs meet industry needs and offer evolving opportunities. At the same time, Assiniboine Community College maintains a collaborative relationship with IERHA so it can respond to the region’s needs and bring education closer to home.

Assiniboine Community College has offered a comprehensive health-care aide program and practical nursing program in the Interlake-Eastern region. More courses are coming up in Beausejour for both programs.

“When students can stay in their home communities to study, they typically will stay and work in their community. This certainly builds capacity in the region, is good for economic growth and responds to the labour shortage and demand,” Nicolas said.

“We are always looking for partnerships with communities and regional health authorities. Currently the School of Nursing meets regularly with regional health authorities to connect with communities. We continue to have conversations with IERHA to meet the educational needs of potential students closer to home to meet the labour market demand.”

RRC Polytech

RRC Polytech is committed to a continuous transformation of its learning model to meet emerging needs. Education options are flexible with a blend of virtual and course-based delivery models, including in-community training.

“Virtual and blended learning models allow students to study in the community or from home with hands-on skills assessments either on campus or at a centralized location,” said Darlene Bouvier, regional campus manager.

“Our course-based registration model allows for part-time, full-time, day or evening learning opportunities to meet the needs of learners who may be moving into a new career, underemployed or unemployed and may need alternate dates and times to complete their learning.”

Community partnerships are critical since students can learn directly and complete hands-on practicums locally, she added. From there, they can transition smoothly from practicum into jobs to support local employment needs.

“The college provides flexible wrap-around supports including students services, tutoring, study sessions, counselling, accessibility services and access to mentors and Elders,” Bouvier said.

“For example, in Sagkeeng First Nation, we delivered a health-care aide program where students studied with the support of the community and family. The opportunity for local training removes barriers related to access to childcare, transportation and the challenges and costs of moving outside of the community to receive an education where the learner may not otherwise have this opportunity.”

RRC Polytech provides dual credit opportunities locally throughout Manitoba in partnerships with schools and adult learning centres. Students can achieve their Grade 12 certificate alongside an RRC Polytech health-care aide or health unit clerk certificate, plus many other program options.

Partnerships within industries, such as health authorities, are essential, she added.

“IERHA is one of the region’s largest employers, and our partnership ensures collaboration on employment needs, supports training throughout the region and supports students with work experience that leads directly to job offers — and often times multiple job offers due to the extensive need for health-care professionals throughout the region,” Bouvier said.

“Our partnerships are the core of our success. They enable us to extend our resources, leverage our partners’ strengths, accelerate progress in innovation and research, and expand our reach.”

Looking ahead, RRC Polytech is committed to the continued development and expansion of community partnerships to reach all learners. Part-time virtual and blended options will be available this fall through Interlake and Peguis Fisher River campuses. Evening and weekend options are available through continuing education.

“We deliver multiple programs where learners can participate anywhere in the region with our blended learning model. Students may need to travel for testing and practicum; however, a large portion can be done in community or, if the student prefers, on campus. Students can take this full time, reduced work load or part time to meet individual needs,” Bouvier said.

“With the opportunity for virtual, in-community and flexible blended learning models, this opens the door for expanded learning opportunities throughout rural Manitoba.”

University of Manitoba

The University of Manitoba also creates connections with local communities through the College of Nursing.

Jennifer Dunsford, director of clinical education for the College of Nursing, said many nursing students benefit from clinical placements in rural settings, including those in Interlake-Eastern communities.

“We really value the opportunity to work with Interlake-Eastern RHA. There’s such a rich potential for great experiences for our students that they wouldn’t necessarily get doing a specialty placement in a tertiary care setting. If you’re in a rural setting, you might get orthopedic, burns, trauma, palliative care, labour and delivery,” she said. “If at all possible, we strongly encourage students to consider doing a rural placement at some point within their program.”

At the same time, rural communities benefit from students pursuing clinical placements in their facilities.

“Rural hospitals are having staffing crunches just like everywhere else. We find that the more a student is exposed to a certain environment or facility or area, the more likely they are to request that for their senior practicum — and very often senior practicum students get hired right onto the unit that they did their final placement on,” Dunsford said.

“So we’re hoping that that will help to address some of the staffing shortage across the province as well by expanding the placement opportunities. It’s been quite successful. Our students tend to enjoy their time in rural hospitals and I think they get a great experience.”

To learn more about local health-care education opportunities, visit

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