Medway council is today launching a new social work academy, which will aim to improve retention rates by offering trainee and qualified social workers better support and access to continuing professional development.
The academy will have several faculties including a student unit, which will take up to 50 social work students each year.
There will also be a faculty for newly qualified social workers, for early professional development and for developing social workers with at least three years’ experience.
The 50 student placements will be delivered at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, in partnership with the University of Kent, Canterbury Christ Church University and several leading London universities.
Medway council said it would consider employing the students after they graduated, if they had the requisite capabilities and there were vacancies.
“The aim is to then grow this bank of talented social workers and develop them through their entire career,” said a spokesperson for the council.
The academy will also focus on training linked to continuous professional development for existing, more experienced social workers.
Barbara Peacock, director of children and adult services at Medway, said: “It is vital social workers have support and supervision during their first year and beyond and that is what the academy will do.
“It will provide the opportunity for newly qualified social workers to develop essential skills in a learning environment to deal with the demanding area of adult and child social work. Not only that, but these graduates will in turn show the next generation of graduates the way forward.”
A recent survey by the Local Government Association found nearly 65% of councils in England had experienced difficulty in recruiting social workers and nearly half had experienced challenges in staff retention.
David Shemmings, professor of child protection research at the University of Kent, who will attend today’s launch event, said: “Social workers face enormous pressures when trying to support families and protect children.
“The value of an academy is that it offers them the time to learn new skills and digest contemporary research, away from the stresses of their daily work.”