DDN Magazine March 2023 DDN March_2023 - Page 16


An effective workforce needs high quality training . We need to look at staff training urgently if we ’ re going to tackle a skills deficit fuelled by underinvestment and lockdown , says Kevin Flemen

This is my twentieth year working fulltime as an independent trainer in the drug sector . Two decades of flipcharts , the odour of marker pens and the slow shift of technology from OHPs , through projectors to Plasma TVs and Zoom training . In that time I ’ ve gone from the full-scale training lunch menu in hotels to half a packet of biscuits in a training room with no working heating !

I ’ ve survived austerity , COVID lockdowns and more Home Office drugs ministers and drug strategies than I care to remember . I dread to think how many trees ’ worth of flipcharts I ’ ve gone through or how much coffee I ’ ve drunk . I ’ ve also never been busier . People looking to book training now are crestfallen when I say that I ’ ll probably be booking them in for March … 2024 .
EXPERIENCE DEFICIT While it ’ s good to be busy , it ’ s not ideal . As a sector the gap between training need and halfway decent trainers to deliver it has never been greater . This has serious implications for any expansion of services or enhanced delivery . The days when there were so many trainers out there that they had their own supplement in DDN are long gone .
The need has grown in part due to COVID . The sector , which had been losing workers rapidly anyway , lost still more during lockdown , and so many of these were older experienced workers who took with them years of knowledge . Posts were frozen and then as lockdown continued , recruitment resumed . But as numerous services will attest , it ’ s not always easy to recruit staff , especially those with experience and especially outside urban areas . I ’ ve had so many people on courses who are recent graduates , have changed careers or have limited experience in a related sector .
These workers in a normal working environment would learn on the job – shadowing , team meetings , supervision , training sessions and conversations with colleagues in the kitchen . But being recruited in lockdown , they had no chance to do these things . There might be some reading material , videos online and dialling into meetings on Teams . Some did lots of their own background reading , looked things up and did their best to figure it out . But in short-staffed services with high caseloads , these new workers were needed quickly and so were seeing clients . In lockdown this was likely to mean seeing people online , with no chance to shadow or nip to ask a colleague ’ s advice .
COMPLEX CASES No surprise then that some of these workers left within months . They hadn ’ t been recruited with the required skills and weren ’ t properly trained . Given complex cases with limited training and support they felt under-skilled , unsupported and anxious about doing the wrong thing . The relief of those attending live training sessions ( whether online or faceto-face ) was palpable .
Trainers too have had to learn and adapt . Whether it ’ s getting to grips with online training platforms , investing in new equipment , or getting back to training in the real world against
MangoStar _ Studio