There’s a lot of satisfaction to be had from helping those in need, so if you’re passionate about people, then a job in social work could be a very fulfilling career choice.
While there has always been a need for social workers, the Health and Social Care Act of 2012, designed to remove inequalities in the UK health system, created a wealth of new jobs within the sector, both in the NHS and local authorities, as well as in the private and public sectors, so there’s plenty of opportunity for those thinking about a career in social care. The State of the Adult Social Care Sector and Workforce in England report by Skills for Care found that an estimated 10% of social worker roles were vacant in 2017/18.
Within the sector, you could be working in a variety of workplaces, dealing with children, the elderly, families, and those with disabilities, addictions, mental health issues and learning difficulties.
Social care jobs aren’t for everyone
As a social worker, you’ll be responsible for tackling some of society’s most pressing problems, so you’ll need to be resilient, caring, a good listener, diplomatic and possess excellent interpersonal skills. Due to the nature of the sector, many social care jobs are outside typical working hours, so you’ll need to be able to willing to work unsocial hours, if necessary. The upside of this is that there are many part-time and flexible working opportunities in social care.
While there are social care jobs at every level, apprenticeships are a good way into the sector and typically last between 12 months and two years. These are primarily work-based in order to develop practical skills. To apply, you need to be over 16, not in full time education and live in England.
There are different levels of apprenticeships based on skills and experience. If you’re new to social care, level 2 is a good place to start. You can search the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) database to find opportunities in your locality. If you’re already working in the sector, talk to your manager about apprenticeship opportunities. Many apprentices go on to be full time employees where they serve their apprenticeship.
Graduates are in demand for social care jobs
While there are social care jobs at every level, there is increasing demand for graduates and post-grads. If your degree is unrelated to the role you’re seeking, you’ll need to either take a Masters or opt for a fast-track training programme such as the Step Up To Social Work, Frontline or Think Ahead initiatives. However, it can be difficult to get on to a course without some previous experience. One of the easiest ways to get this experience is through volunteering. This demonstrates your commitment to working in the sector and is a good way to discover if a career in social care is for you.
If you’re already on a social work related degree, the Prince’s Trust offers 70-day student social work placements that gives those interested in working in the sector first-hand experience of supporting people with issues related to mental health, abuse, or housing problems.
As for pay, salaries vary heavily depending on the role, from starting salaries of £15,000 for a care assistant and averaging £30,000 for those with more experience.
To find your next role in social care, start with a search on Zoek.
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