People Management: On-the-job training for drugs workers

Indira Das-Gupta

No previous qualifications are required for a Phoenix House course.

A growing demand in the sector for more alcohol and drugs workers with certified qualifications has prompted the substance misuse charity Phoenix House to become an accredited Open College Network Learning Centre.

This means it can offer training to employees from external organisations that will lead to a recognised vocational qualification - the Drug and Alcohol Worker Core Competencies Certificate, OCN Level 3.

The course takes between 18 months and two years to complete and is carried out on the job. It comprises nine units, based on 14 seminars held at different centres around the country.

The only prerequisite is that people who do the course must be practising alcohol and drugs workers - no prior qualifications are needed. This makes it a suitable option for many former users of the service. Andy Lancaster, head of human resources at Phoenix House, says: "That's what so good about the course - people with little education can get a proper qualification."

Gary White from Phoenix House's Glasgow centre is a former user who, having completed the programme in 1996, returned as a volunteer and became an assessor training aspiring alcohol and drugs workers. He says: "If you have been an addict yourself, you can relate to service users. I wanted to put something back after I overcame my addiction, and I know of many others who feel the same way."

Phoenix House, which has just won an Investors In People Award, mainly for its training opportunities, first pioneered such courses in partnership with Addaction. Now the charity has become a Learning Centre it wants to build partnerships with other organisations.

Lancaster says: "Few people have recognised qualifications in the field, yet more and more organisations are asking for them. You can have years of experience on the job and a reference to prove it, but only a qualification like this that adheres to national standards can really prove competency."

Phoenix House is confident it will meet demand and estimates that about 100 people will start the course. Lancaster adds: "We know there is a demand for these courses and we have the necessary experienced staff and resources, so we hope to work with smaller organisations that don't."

- For further information, contact


- Phoenix House has become an accredited Open College Network Learning Centre

- It offers a vocational qualification for alcohol and drugs workers, carried out on the job for up to two years

- There are nine units, based on 14 seminars given at various UK centres

- The only requirement is that those who take the course are practising alcohol and drugs workers.

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