TEN new social workers have taken up roles at Leicester City Council thanks to an apprenticeship scheme to nurture homegrown talent.
The 10 staff from the city’s children’s and adult services teams have completed a three-year degree level course in social work in a joint scheme run with the University of Warwick.
Leicester City Council was one of the first local authorities in the UK to embark on the apprenticeship scheme in March 2019, and now the first 10 students have gained their qualifications.
The scheme involved the successful candidates studying and training one day a week, enabling them to gain new skills and qualifications while still working in their regular jobs on the other four days. All completed the course despite the disruption and interruptions caused by the pandemic lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.
Nationally there are difficulties in recruiting enough social workers to meet the huge demand and heavy workload, but the apprenticeship has enabled the city council to “grow its own,” and help tackle the shortage of qualified workers.
All of the successful graduates have now taken up permanent posts as qualified social workers within the city council, providing a hugely valuable resource for both adults and children. A further three cohorts of trainees are currently undertaking the course.
A small ceremony to congratulate the apprentices took place on Monday, September 12, at City Hall, attending by Leicester deputy city mayor for social care and anti-poverty, along with senior staff from children’s and adults’ social care.
Speaking to the graduates, Cllr Russell said: “Getting through the last three years doing your normal jobs has been enough of a challenge, but to have also done this alongside that work is absolutely phenomenal and I am genuinely blown away by you all.
“I know what you’ve had to give up to be able to do this course, and you’ve really stepped up to the challenge. In doing so you’ve made sure we’ve got the resources and skilled workforce we need going forward, and we are really proud of you all.”
Existing staff who were keen to develop their careers in social work were shortlisted internally first and then were selected by the University of Warwick to gain a place on the three-year degree apprenticeship social work course.
One of the newly-qualified social workers is Claire Wiltshire, who has now started work in the city’s children’s services team. She said: “I’ve worked for children’s services for nearly 14 years, and when the opportunity came up, I didn’t have to think about taking it. It means I can help to improve people’s lives which feels like a very privileged position to be in.”
Hari Pattni works in the city council’s adult social care team, now as a qualified social worker. He added: “The opportunity came up through the city council apprenticeship scheme, and it means I’ve now got a proper degree out of it. I’d definitely recommend it as a way to get a qualification at the same time as working.”