Story updated 4 December
Social work degree apprenticeships have finally been signed off and should be widely available from next autumn.
The apprenticeships, which were originally meant to launch in September but faced delays, in part because of wrangling over assessment formats, are now “ready for use” according to a statement by Skills for Care.
The apprenticeship standard and assessment plan has now been published on the Institute for Apprenticeships (IFA) website.
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Jane Hanrahan, the HR learning and development manager at Norfolk council, who chairs the ‘trailblazer’ group of councils and universities involved in developing the scheme, said she hoped the qualification could have a “significant positive impact” on numbers entering social work.
“This is a brilliant opportunity for people working in social work support roles to earn a living while qualifying,” she told Community Care. “We can select good candidates we know and put them through the process, so there should be a whole new stream of social workers whose quality we can be confident in.”
Hanrahan, who said a “great long list” of people at Norfolk council had expressed an interest in the apprenticeships, added that she hoped some higher education institutions could be offering the apprenticeships by spring 2019.
But she acknowledged that for most employers, September 2019 would be a “realistic” starting date for delivering social work apprenticeships.
The social work degree apprenticeship runs for three years and has been designed to offer a career progression pathway for people already working within social care.
Final ‘endpoint’ assessment formats, which had been a sticking point, will now be based around critiquing and presenting on a chosen case, and on a responsive ‘scenario exercise’ mirroring a developing workplace situation, Hanrahan said.
The IfA had pushed for practice observation to form part of the assessment, but employers and universities had deemed this “impractical and inappropriate” given that this already formed a key part of assessment during the degree.
The endpoint assessments make up the degree apprenticeships’ final 60 credits, typically filling the place where a dissertation would sit within a regular degree. Employers and partner universities could though still include some kind of dissertation within their degrees if they felt it appropriate, Hanrahan said.
With the framework approved, work still needs to be done by universities to redesign courses to accommodate the new assessment methods, Skills for Care said. Employers must also negotiate deals with partner universities around how much the apprenticeships will cost them.
Under the final agreement, a figure of £23,000 has been set as the maximum the government will contribute towards off-the-job training and assessment per apprentice.
Lyn Romeo, the chief social worker for adults, said she was “delighted” the apprenticeships had been signed off.
“Having a uniquely immersive way to develop their knowledge and skills as part of a social care team, while undertaking the required academic study to become social workers, provides another route for people who aren’t in a position to take time out to do a full time degree,” Romeo said.
Meanwhile the chief children’s social worker, Isabelle Trowler, praised the “commitment” of the trailblazer group in getting the apprenticeships finalised.
“This will further broaden the entry routes into one of the most rewarding professions – helping to bring in a diverse cohort of talented individuals, and equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need to be outstanding social workers,” Trowler said.