I am a third-year student at the Open University taking a health and social care degree. I have been working as a senior care worker/co-ordinator with people with learning difficulties and special needs for eight years now. Although I love my job, the possibilities of improving my career and being able to use my studies in practice are very limited. I am looking for an organisation that could sponsor me to do the 200 days of practice that are required to get the degree or ideally, a position as an assistant social worker. Do you know of any ways to validate this 200 days of training with my eight years’ experience?
Answer by Barry Cooper (pictured):
You are demonstrating a desire to progress your career in social work and an ability to engage in studies to increase your qualifications. There are two main options for social care staff seeking a professional social work qualification. The first is to stop work and apply for a full-time place on a social work degree course. The second, as you appear to want, is to seek sponsorship or traineeship from an employer who wants to “grow their own” staff so that you can continue to earn while you learn. It sounds as though your current employer isn’t willing or able to sponsor you onto a social work degree course and so you are prepared to move jobs.
As you are in the third year of the OU health and social care degree you should already have 180 credits towards a social work degree if you have successfully completed the necessary modules. You may have more if you have taken some of the optional courses that are open access. Credits for either of these two courses are often a significant demonstration to potential employers of your commitment and ability to undertake professional training and qualification. Full-time social work degree courses may also offer you credit for these courses through the credit transfer and accumulation scheme.
The figure of 200 days of practice for the social work degree is under review and fewer days may be needed in the future. It isn’t currently possible for your work experience to count towards the 200 practice days as these have to be assessed by a qualified practice assessor and marked against the National Occupational Standards. However, your eight years as a senior care worker will be validated in any future studies as you will be able to draw upon a wealth of practice experience through reflection and analysis to further develop your knowledge, skills and values as you progress towards professional qualification.
The Open University has sponsorship links with more than 350 sponsoring agencies throughout the UK in the statutory and voluntary social care sectors. With your work experience and study achievements you should be in a strong position within a social work market where there is often a high turnover of staff. Develop a strategy to approach the agencies directly that you are interested in working for, with your CV, to see if they are looking for enthusiastic and committed new staff with a view to future sponsorship.
Barry Cooper is a lecturer in social work at the Open University
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