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Workforce Development for Addictions Professionals

People who work in the field of addictions and substance abuse face unique challenges, both personal and professional. They are expected to provide timely and effective services to clients in a demanding environment, where ongoing problems with staff recruitment, retention and burn-out are common.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) believes that substance abuse services can and should be delivered to the highest possible standards, using best and promising practices. CCSA also believes it is crucial to create a satisfying work experience for those who choose this challenging field as a career. To make this happen, the substance abuse workforce must be strategically supported across all levels — both the practitioners and organizations for whom they work and the systems within which they work.

Workforce development is a CCSA priority

Challenges surrounding workforce development

  • A high number of professionals working in the substance abuse field are regulated through their colleges or associations (e.g., social workers, nurses). However, their education did not necessarily equip them to work most effectively with people who have substance abuse issues.

  • Although more than 50 substance abuse or addictions programs are delivered at Canadian colleges and universities, these graduates are the minority in the addictions workforce.

  • The substance abuse workforce has no means of self-regulation, although individual certification and organizational accreditation do help increase the consistency and quality of prevention and treatment services in Canada.

Strengthening the substance abuse workforce

These challenges create opportunities for organizations such as CCSA to address gaps. In response, CCSA and the National Advisory Group on Workforce Development (NAGWD) encourage:

  • Accreditation, which acknowledges compliance with standards at the program or organization level; and

  • Certification, which assesses individuals employed in a given field.

NAGWD was instrumental in creating the Competencies for Canada’s Substance Abuse Workforce.

Consultations with the workforce have occurred periodically over the past 10 years to ensure that research and tools are relevant and useful to both employers and the workforce.