Abington teams with union to offer addiction counselor apprenticeship

Abington opioid counselor
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ABINGTON, Pa. — The Philadelphia Mental Health Care Corp. (PMHCC) wanted to better equip their employees, who are on the front lines of the opioid crisis. PMHCC, in conversation with Penn State Abington faculty member Kathleen Fadigan,proposed an Addiction Counselor Apprenticeship to the District 1199C Training Fund. 

The 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund is a labor-management partnership of District 1199C of the National of Union of Hospital and Healthcare Employees and more than 50 health care facilities and agencies in the region. The Training Fund works with colleges to offer training to more than 4,000 students annually and provides tuition assistance and scholarships to support their education.

“I firmly believe that as a state university, Penn State Abington should do its part in helping to solve the opioid crisis, and one way for us to be involved is to assist in training the next generation of addiction counselors," Fadigan, program chair for the Rehabilitation & Human Services major at Abington, said.

The Addiction Counselor Apprenticeship was approved by the Pennsylvania Apprenticeship and Training Council. PMHCC and the Jewish Employment Vocational Services, although not affiliated with the 1199C union, have signed on to have 11 of their personnel receive this additional training and support. They are joined by six union employees from Temple University Health System Episcopal Hospital. The training is a pathway to certification for all.

The Training Fund has been running apprenticeship opportunities since 2014. The organization currently educates more than 100 apprentices in programs such as: Advanced Home Health Aide/ Nurse Aide Pathway; Behavioral Health/ Direct Support Professional; Community Health Worker; Early Childhood Education; and Medical Assistant. The goals of these programs are to enhance workers’ skills, increase staff retention, and improve patient/client care. Executive Director of the District 1199C Training Fund Cheryl Feldman sees these opportunities as a “win-win on three levels for: employees, employers, and the City of Philadelphia.”

The apprenticeships use an “earn and learn” model. Participants are currently working in the field and, through an agreement signed by their employer, see wage increases as they progress through the apprenticeship that match their increasing competency on the job.

And since employees are learning as they work, they are able to contribute their perspective in class and apply their newly acquired knowledge on the job. There is a constant transfer of information and experience between the classroom and the workplace.

Addiction Counselor Apprentices receive 300 hours of instruction delivered on-site at the Training Fund facility by Penn State Abington. The curriculum is aligned with competencies set forth by the Pennsylvania Certification Board for certification. As part the program, apprentices are also required to meet weekly with a mentor at their worksite. Feldman calls this a “seamless connection between instruction and on-the-job training.”

Feldman said she appreciates Abington’s partnership in this effort. She hopes to add another direct support professional apprenticeship to the Training Fund repertoire that could serve as a pathway to more Addiction Counselor apprenticeships.

“It is always wonderful when a workforce apprenticeship model is paired with a social need,” Feldman said.

To participate in an apprenticeship program, employers and interested employees can contact Feldman at [email protected]

Penn State Abington offers a certificate in addiction counseling on campus. The program can be a pathway to certification as an addiction counselor. 

About Penn State Abington Continuing Education
Penn State Abington Continuing Education offers customized training programs delivered on-site to business and industry across southeastern Pennsylvania. Programs offer credentials for business and information technology managers, accountants, attorneys, engineers, educators, and health care and human services workers, and provide pathways to high priority occupations.

About Penn State Abington

Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century public higher education within a world-class research university. With nearly 4,000 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 19 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer honors program, NCAA Division III athletics and more.