Programme Head of Social Work at Skills for Care, Graham Woodham talks us through the upcoming social work degree apprenticeships and the opportunities that come with this different way of learning. 

It was great to see in the straw poll of principal social workers last month, how many of them were actively considering the proposed new degree-based apprenticeship for social worker as part of their workforce planning for the future. The question was asked as part of a presentation given to the annual joint principal social worker conference, as progress with the development of this apprenticeship route gathers pace.

A different way of learning not a different qualification. No one can become a registered social worker without successfully attaining a qualification through a programme approved by the profession’s regulator. This will be exactly the same for the apprenticeship route. The proposal from the Trailblazer group of employers (new Apprenticeship proposals must be led by employers) is for an integrated degree based apprenticeship. This will integrate the on-programme learning with independent competency assessments made at the end of the Apprenticeship.

Of course there are some fundamental principles that make apprenticeships what they are. They’re work-based and require the candidate to be employed as an apprentice. In social work and social care we’re experts in work based learning. We’ve been doing it for years in a variety of ways, both for professionals through placements and for other groups of staff through a whole range of vocational routes. The balance between on and off the job learning and the traditional academic/placement model we’re familiar with is a challenge which will need to be addressed. But the outcome is a different way of becoming a social worker – not a different qualification.


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