Drive to create more diverse workforce in social work through apprenticeships

Funding has been granted for a university to explore how social work workforces can better represent local communities and service users

Photo: Gajus/Fotolia

A university has been awarded funding to use the proposed social work apprenticeship scheme to attract a more diverse range of people into the profession.

The Open University announced last week that it had been given funding from the Higher Education Funding Council in England (HEFCE) to work with employers to create a social work workforce that better reflects local communities and service users.

The funding, from the Degree Apprenticeship Development Fund, will support the university and employers to explore how the degree apprenticeship in social work – announced earlier this year – could increase access to social work training from groups currently under-represented both in higher education and in the social work profession, such as people with disabilities and those from minority ethnic groups.

As part of the funding, the university will also develop accessible learning resources for candidates for social work training, and support apprentices throughout qualification. For the first phase of the project, the university is calling on employers to complete a survey on the diversity of their workforce. The funding recognised that the apprenticeship scheme was not signed off yet, and the university is beginning work to plan for sign off so it can support the increase of apprentices.

Diverse backgrounds

Jenny Simpson, head of social work (England) at the Open University, said: “The social work profession needs to – and must – better reflect users of services.

“There are countless capable and talented people from many diverse backgrounds – including people with disabilities as well as people of different ages and from under-represented ethnic groups – who have the potential to become good social workers but either lack the confidence in themselves or have simply never given social work or university a second thought.

“Working with employers we aim to reach out too many more people from different groups in society to consider social work as a career – and to support them in applying for places as degree apprenticeships.”

The apprenticeship standard for social workers was submitted to the Institute for Apprenticeships and approved, subject to certain changes.

‘Good practice’

The proposed degree apprenticeship will be a work-based route to qualification for social workers, and is expected to take 36 months. The trainees would be paid from day one and receive a mixture of on and off-the-job training. After an end of apprenticeship assessment, trainees would gain a university degree.

The apprenticeship proposals are being led by a ‘trailblazer group’ of around 30 employers and 30 universities, supported by Skills for Care. The government is expected to decide on whether the scheme can progress further in December.

Mary Kellett, executive dean of the Open University’s Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies and a former children’s social worker, encouraged councils to consider the potential of the new apprenticeship scheme.

“The incentive of drawing on the apprenticeship levy to support the development of social workers and the additional boost of HEFCE funding to share good practice around recruitment are very welcome indeed.”

More from Community Care

3 Responses to Drive to create more diverse workforce in social work through apprenticeships

  1. Find Apprentices November 14, 2017 at 3:17 pm #

    Great news and another huge step in the right direction for apprenticeships. Social Work is a common practise and an area when candidates, people wanting to enter the profession is getting slimmer potentially due to growth opportunity within the professional field. This degree apprenticeship will open u the doors for so many people and give the opportunity further develop their own skills and confidence as well as get a degree after the 36 months. Fantastic news.

  2. Lisa November 15, 2017 at 7:33 pm #

    I agree, I have been trying to complete my Social Work degree for years and due to lack of support from employers I was not able to finish it and changed to a Health and Social Work Degree. I hope that Wales follows suit which will hopefully let me complete my Social Work Degree.

  3. Luke B November 16, 2017 at 9:02 am #

    I welcome any new method of getting interested people trained up to be confident and competent practitioners. My reservation is about how this will be rolled out, the profession needs to retain and build quality in whilst also being inclusive, having worked with health and social care apprenticeships recently my main concern would be around who and which organisations do this. This is just as important as the persons experience and passion to learn. I will watch with keen interest.