Career Clinic

Q: I´m a mature student looking to start my career in social work. How much importance should I attach to training and development – and how much should I expect or demand?

A: I do believe that training and development – particularly the latter – are not just important, but essential. The importance of training and qualification is twofold. On the one hand, there is a straightforward qualification requirement in order to access a career structure leading to more challenging and higher paid jobs in the future.

On the other hand, the quality and relevance of the training delivered will directly affect your confidence and competence in the early days of your career. And there are different schools of thought on the value of things such as sector-specific work placements for student social workers, including a discussion here in Community Care.

Training and development are two separate strands of the bigger “learning” arena. A simple distinction might be that employers provide training in formal, one-off or modular events, while development is something that individuals look for daily. Both should continue long after qualification has been gained.

You ask how much you should expect or demand. It is difficult to be prescriptive because your professional development needs are individual to you. But social work is a profession and, in my view, should aspire to the same standards and continuous professional development as health care professionals, lawyers and teachers.

For example, all need to be on top of constantly changing legislation and consider how that might affect existing working practices. This learning need might be satisfied by a combination of training and development activities – for example, a legal update course followed by regular items on team meeting agendas. When training budgets are frozen or axed (typically because they are overspent part way through the financial year) there are still a number of development avenues to pursue. Continuous  evelopment includes peer input and self-evaluation, and mentoring can be invaluable, particularly when mentors and mentees understand their responsibilities and  boundaries.  Good supervision and appraisal are also worth their weight in gold.

Alison Sanger is a social care HR consultant€

A:Presumably you have just finished your social work degree, so you probably registered with the General Social Care Council in April 2005. To re-register in April 2008, we all need to have done either 90 hours or 15 days of “post-registration training and learning” – known as PRTL – and have a record of what we did, when we did it and what we learned from it.

This can mean courses, or work shadowing, or even reading an article in Community Care. And it should mean you are within your rights to expect to spend the equivalent of at least five days a year at work on your personal development – although sadly not all employers will see it quite like that! I am sure that any time you spent studying post-registering will count towards your first 90-day quota for April, but it’s probably worth checking with the GSCC. You don’t want to get caught out – the GSCC is threatening that failure to prove you’ve done the full amount of PRTL by the deadline could be classed as misconduct!

Name and address withheld


Q: A member of my team has a poor sickness record. I was just about to tackle him about it, but he has now gone off with “stress”. Is there anything I can do? We will answer this question in the 30 August issue of Community Care. We want to publish your advice too. Please send your comments to by 20 August.

Do you have your own career dilemma? Send your comments or questions for consideration by our HR expert and your peers to


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