Strengthening the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce
The Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce is the first resource of its kind to provide a set of measurable skills, knowledge, attitudes and values that support and enhance the delivery of effective youth health promotion and drug use prevention in Canada. The Prevention Workforce Competencies Report also identifies principles that should drive effective youth substance use prevention activities and initiatives.
Those working in youth health promotion and substance abuse prevention face knowledge gaps, inconsistencies in recommended evidence and practice, a lack of understanding of and support for successful youth engagement, and a lack of common terminology and language. These challenges affect their ability to work effectively with youth and with the community, and what works with adults does not necessarily work with youth. Research indicates that working with youth requires a specialized focus on issues, needs, considerations and approaches. These points were carefully considered during research and validation for the report.
The most effective youth substance use prevention activities and initiatives feature a holistic, integrated, respectful, flexible and strength-based approach informed by evidence about what works. Such initiatives are youth-driven and foster the development and maintenance of positive, collaborative relationships among youth and the community of those who care for and about them.
The Prevention Workforce Competencies Report sets out 11 competencies that reflect the principles for working effectively with youth and provides a description of each competency. The four levels of proficiency — introductory, developing, intermediate and advanced — provided for each competency support health promotion, youth outreach and other workers, including health professionals, throughout the progression of their careers.
In their own words
Participants in the validation focus groups offered examples of lessons learned in their prevention efforts.
"The key to a successful prevention and intervention approach is showing youth respect, as doing so provides an incentive for them to better themselves. Showing youth respect and affording them an opportunity to contribute and become leaders are some of the most powerful incentives a prevention worker can offer. Therefore, one must have the skill to provide respect as an incentive."
"The key lesson we have to share is that allowing a group of at-risk youth to help create a program is the best method for program development, because programs developed with input from youth are more relevant to youth."
"We learned that one major issue was that policies and procedures require youth input, and not just brief input, but continuing engagement. The major lesson learned was that forcing a radical shift in position caused difficulty and was not effective. It is all relationship-based; it is a matter of engaging with these people and slowly integrating messages and lessons demonstrating the value of living alcohol- and drug-free lives. Prevention workers must be slow to teach and never judge."
Read more about the lessons learned in the Prevention Workforce Competencies Report.