Work Experience for Social Work
Why is it Needed?
Social Work is a demanding career that puts practitioners into contact with a wide range of vulnerable people, including children, people with disabilities/learning disabilities/mental health conditions/people with substance misuse issues, the homeless, the terminally ill and offenders, to name a few.
One of the reasons why work experience is necessary is so that the applicant can make sure that social work is definitely the career for them. Gaining relevant experience brings them into contact with vulnerable people and organisations that they are likely to encounter as social workers. Undertaking work experience can also help a person to decide whether they are suited to the career or not.
Work experience can provide a person with important transferrable skills, such as communication and teamwork skills. Social work training consists of practical placements and it is therefore important that those undergoing it have the personal and practical skills needed. By gaining relevant work experience, these skills will be able to be gained and developed, alongside knowledge of the career.
When deciding who to interview and offer places to universities will take into account work experience, and the way the applicant has reflected on it. They want to know that an applicant understands what the career entails, has the skills and knowledge that they will need, is able to understand just why these things are important, and how they can be applied.
How Much is Needed?
This is something that the applicant will need to check with each university they are considering applying to. Each institution has different requirements, and some are more strict than others. For example, some may want experience to be in paid/full-time employment, some may want a particular number of hours, some may not stipulate a set amount. Even if an amount is stated, they may be flexible with this, or they may not be.
It is important to note that what is true in the case of all universities is that it doesn’t matter if you have years of relevant experience, if you are unable to reflect on it. This is vital, and it is perfectly possible for someone with less experience to be chosen over someone with more, if they are able to demonstrate their learning and relate their experience to their potential as a social worker sufficiently.
What is Relevant Experience?
Broadly speaking, anything with people will help someone to gain relevant skills. However, they will also need to gain experience with vulnerable people, which can be in a variety of ways. Examples are befriending schemes, volunteering at a day centre, working in a care home, visiting patients in hospital or working with children. A good place to start looking is local volunteering centres, who should be able to recommend some places to approach.