Local authorities look set to train around 600 social workers through apprenticeships, the government has said.
In its response to the consultation on accreditation, published this week, the Department for Education said early indications were that 600 apprentices across children’s and adults’ social work could be trained per year via the new scheme.
The apprenticeship scheme, announced earlier this year, needs to be signed off by the Institute of Apprenticeship, but if that process is successful it will start training apprentices in September 2018.
A work-based route to qualification, the social work degree apprenticeship will see trainees paid from day one and mix on and off-the-job training. At the end of the three-year training period, and after sitting a test by their employer, trainees would gain a university degree. The HCPC has approved a national apprenticeship standard for social workers.
The apprenticeship scheme is being led by a group of around 30 employers and 30 universities, and is supported by Skills for Care.
The group had faced criticism that the scheme could “dumb down” social work standards. Sceptics were concerned that apprenticeships were being developed without a research base and was being led by employers in a period where Ofsted were finding high levels of failing leadership and management of social workers. There was also concern that the standards were moving away from an international definition of social work to a localised degree.
Speaking at a conference in July, head of programmes at Skills for Care, Graham Woodham, said the route is merely a different route of delivering training, and will meet the same academic standards as other routes.
Chair of the apprenticeships trailblazer group said at the same event the scheme was not about diluting the profession. “We’ve lots of people in social care interested in moving into the social work workforce but at the moment there’s a barrier for them. This scheme is all about removing the barrier.”
Different training routes
The government was referring to the scheme as part of a package of reforms introduced to improve the standard of social work practice and initial qualification, of which apprenticeships represent a further diversification and step away from the ‘traditional’ degree routes.
Other changes include investments in fast-track routes Frontline and Step Up, which have trained more than 1,300 social workers with a thousand more currently enrolled on the programmes. The government said it is also funding teaching partnerships, with 15 now covering 72 local authorities, 29 universities and a range of public, private, voluntary and independent organisations.