In the simplest stated form, developing a quality driven, solidly founded Social Work workforce requires four very important components.
1. Demand. When looking at regulating or endorsing Social Work education programs there needs to be an established workforce assessment. It is crucial to know how much staff employers are going to need. We need to be better at workforce projections so we are not flooding the market with newly qualified staff who cannot find jobs.
(I believe the aforementioned problem would be less of a problem with a more holistic but generalist Social Work education as graduates would have a greater arena in which to work. I also think partnerships between HEIs and local authorities for specialist training programs – either children or adult – would help because they can have a group of dedicated staff upon completion of a program.)
I found this definition on Leicestershire council’s website and it says it exactly how it needs to be. “A definition of workforce planning involves achieving: the right people with the right skills in the right place at the right time for the right cost.”
2. Quality of education. By proving Social Workers a generalist education with the option of specialising in an area (i.e. – children’s, adults, family work, international) you are providing them with the basic foundation needed to succeed as a Social Work professional who is versatile and can manoeuvre throughout Social Work gaining a diverse skill set. This is an ongoing debate that needs to be given priority attention to ensure that we are addressing the needs of the students. This means that if HEIs are providing a generalist education then employers need to invest in that knowledge needed to ensure positive clients for their own client base.
3. Changing how Social Workers are hired. If you have an idea of what the work force needs you can take advantage of hiring multiple numbers at the same time. A comprehensive induction program which incorporates the practicalities of Social Work within a particular organisation is crucial. This will equip their new workforce with the confidence, support and practical skills needed to be productive and strong members of the teams in which they are placed.
4. Quality of employment. By providing a generalist education, you create a workforce that can be, for lack of a better word, manipulate to a greater degree. This is not manipulation in the sense of using them for one’s own agenda through suspicious or morally questionable techniques. It is manipulation in the sense that they can move through children’s social work, adult social work, voluntary etc. By having an employee with the right skill set, employers can ask they move to where the skills may be needed. It also gives employees the opportunity to broaden their knowledge base and to work in various sectors. This can improve loyalty and commitment to an organisation as employees are aware that they can move to other areas should they feel need for change. It may also help those staff members who may be underperforming. Once their skills are identified they can be encouraged to apply their skills in other parts of the organisation.