DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – A new program in Dayton will help hospitality workers pivot their careers into caretaking for seniors in an effort to provide jobs for those who are largely unemployed due to the pandemic, while also filling a need for the community.

Kathy Stevens, a Del Mar Encore Fellow with the Dayton Foundation, has been working with the Dayton Area Agency on Aging to fix the current shortage of long-term caretakers and home help aids for seniors.

“You really want people that have good customer service skills that are warm and friendly,” explained Stevens.

In August, Stevens said she continued to hear on the news that many hospitality workers were out of jobs due to shut-downs, cut-backs and layoffs. This is when she got the idea that this workforce would be perfect to become caretakers.

Now the Area Agency on Aging has received $85,534 from the Ohio Department of Aging and the Administration for Community Living’s Critical Relief for COVID-19 Pandemic Response Fund. This funding will help pay the training fees for about 100 workers who wish to be trained as caretakers.

Rick Busch is an example of a current caretaker who once worked in the hospitality industry.

“I had no clue how wonderful it was going to be to take care of seniors,” he said.

Busch has more than 40 years of experience working at hotels and private clubs. He’s spent the last six years as a caretaker at Home Instead Senior Care in Dayton.

“I’ve already got the background of handling people and being around people all the time…It’s just a little different because we didn’t change their diapers at the bar.”

The National Restaurant Association reported in April that nearly two out of every three restaurant employees had lost their jobs due to the challenges of COVID-19. Now, Busch and others are encouraging those in the area who are a part of this statistic to consider a pivot to a new career where they believe they could thrive.

“It’s a nice transition,” said Busch. “And if you cant go back to it, or don’t want to go back to it, you can make some good money.”

“It helps the older adult in their home that needs someone to come get groceries for them and help them bathe and get dressed and cook meals,” explained Stevens.

The first students will be trained later in September, but applications for the program are still being accepted. For more information on the program and to apply, click here.