On Tuesday at 8pm (GMT), there will be a scheduled discussion on Twitter hosted by @swscmedia about employment in the field of social work. This blogpost is written with that discussion in mind and while the last thing I’d want to do, is present myself as an ‘expert’ in the field of employment, I have some observations and advice I thought I’d share . I’d welcome comments and feedback, both on this post but more importantly on Tuesday evening, if you can make it to the Twitter chat – hashtag will be #swscmedia.
Since I qualified as a social worker, completing my MA in Social Work, I have been consistently employed in the public sector. I have worked for only two different Local Authorities and feel very fortunate in my current position to be working in a supportive and forward-thinking team with great management (and colleague) interactions.
I am also a Practice Educator and take students on placement, as do other colleagues in my team. While generally I’m not concerned about my own job (for now), it’s hard to discount and detach from the bleak prospects that there are in the statutory (and voluntary) sectors at the moment. We are, to regurgitate an almost overused phrase, in a ‘time of austerity’.
In considering the job market, I thought I’d share some of the advice I give my students and the students I have coming to shadow me.
1. lack of jobs is not personal and it’s not just social work
I see posts and articles about how difficult it is as a newly qualified social worker to get a job. The anger and frustration is completely understandable but it’s important to remember that this is not exclusive to the social work field. There are fewer graduate jobs in every sector. It is not only social work that is finding itself in sparse times regarding recruitment.
2. There are jobs, but there are fewer jobs
Basic economics relies on the supply/demand ratio. Unfortunately we are in a time when supply of social workers may be higher than demand but demand has not frozen up. In the statutory sectors we have legal functions to undertake and they need to be completed. This relies on staff being available. The council I work in, for example, amid all the cuts has stated that the only external recruitment they will be doing in the entire council will be in social work. There are vacancies. They are just harder to find and more dependent on mobility.
3. Don’t forget to push your pre-qualification experience
Pre-qualification experience whether that’s paid or unpaid, formal or personal, can really make a difference between employers choosing one candidate over another.
4. Social work is much more than statutory social work
As someone who has constantly worked in statutory services, I understand that the focus has been on ‘stat’ jobs but the profession and the job market is changing and fragmenting. There will be fewer statutory jobs but this government agenda which is focused on hiving off and selling off sections of the public sector, will be creating more opportunities for social work in social enterprises and in the voluntary sector. Social work can provide a useful and necessary function in the splintering provider organisations that are growing. Social Work qualification and experience are incredibly transferable – use that.
5. Social Work is more than being a ‘Social Worker’
Following on from the previous point, in Mental Health, where we work generically in Community Mental Health Teams, it’s becoming more likely that jobs may be advertised as ‘Mental Health Practitioners’ rather than specifically as Social Workers. The same goes for other fields where the titles of the posts aren’t for social workers specifically but where it would be useful/desirable for examples, roles in advocacy are particularly well-suited to social work graduates.
Times are hard. We are going through a recession. It is important that we help each other but if there are fewer jobs than there are people who want them, the important thing is to stand out and to build experience and knowledge even while looking for work. My path into social work came through voluntary work so I may be biased but having a good grounding and being clear and confident in your goals will help you to find the jobs that are there.
The time and date of the debate are as follows:
Topic: Social Work and Social Care Employment Prospects in Times of Austerity
Date: Tuesday, 13 December 2011
Time: 15:00 to 16:15 EST (20:00 to 21:15 GMT)
Official Twitter Feed: @SWSCmedia
The debate hashtag is: #SWSCmedia
If this is your first time to join our debate please follow the following steps:
How to join the debate:
- To participate in the debate, type #swscmedia in the search box at the top of your twitter screen and press enter or press the search button (search button is the little lens on the right-hand-side of the search box). You will then be able to see all tweets containing #swscmedia;
- To share your views or respond to a point or a question or to share your ideas/views please make sure you include #swscmedia in the text of your tweet. This will ensure that others who are following the debate are able to see your tweet.
We look forward to seeing you in our debate.