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Journey to Social Work Through Apprenticeships

The Social Work Apprenticeship was new to Staffordshire University in 2020 and was an exciting opportunity for individuals working in social care roles in our local partner agencies to embark on a journey to become a social worker via the apprenticeship route.

The course begun in January 2020 and we have successfully recruited 29 apprentices from 4 big partner agencies onto the 3 year BA (Hons) Social Work degree (included within an apprenticeship standard). All of our apprentices have come from different educational and social care backgrounds and have embraced the challenge of academic studies alongside their job roles.

Only 3 months into their first module, the apprentices (and university staff) were faced with the current Covid-19 pandemic. The apprentices were faced with the potential of their studies being paused as a result of Covid-19, however, all of them wished to continue with their studies and remained committed and enthusiastic despite the pending difficulties they would face. The apprentices have had to adapt to remote learning (and bear with the staff as they adapted to remote teaching), remote working and continuing as keyworkers during the pandemic.

The apprentices have demonstrated their resilience and professionalism throughout and have all pass their first module, in and amongst the current situation. The partner agencies, apprentices and University have all worked together to continue with the programme, and the Social Work Apprenticeship is the only Health and Social Care Apprenticeship that has continued in the pandemic. Progress reviews have continued between the apprentices, their mentors and the University via virtual platforms to maintain support, acknowledge progress and set goals for their next steps on their journey. Planning is still being made to attend skills days throughout the summer and complete placements in their second year, which again highlights the collective working and commitment of all parties.

Despite working remotely and the challenges that come with this for the University and partner agencies, we are continuing to focus on recruitment for our second cohort of apprentices to commence their journey in January 2021. Recruitment events and interviews are being arranged virtually, and the level of interest for these has been amazing. The current apprentices have expressed their gratitude to the academic staff for continuing with their passionate teaching, facilitating online learning and the support they have received from the University during these difficult times.

The Apprentices have provided the following feedback around the Social Work Apprenticeships:

“I think the support of the staff and the way that things have adapted to enable us to continue with the course through this pandemic has been great. We've all adapted and supported one another as a group and are continuing on our apprenticeship journey, which is fantastic. In particular what i like about the apprenticeship course is that it pushes you to take what you learn and put it into practice and its really interesting learning from other people on the course, their direct experience in regards to their roles. Incorporating small discussions is a great opportunity to iron out understanding and hear other peoples views and perspectives, as often they are things that I've not thought about. This then makes you raise good questions/ think about things in different light.” TB

“In my opinion, I was relieved to be told that this apprenticeship would continue through the lockdown. The support from university staff and fellow students has been amazing. Everyone worked so hard to complete the 1st module and continue with the next module. At times, a lot of the time, being stuck at home and having to juggle so many different aspects of my life, has been really difficult and draining but I feel it shows how resilient we all are. I am so proud to be part of this apprenticeship group and can’t wait to be back together in a lecture room, meeting up, sharing experiences, be part of university life and learning so much more from lectures and fellow students. Thanks everyone.” SS

by Megan Smith, Work-Based Education Officer, Staffordshire University

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