First cohort complete Social Work Apprenticeship Scheme
23 March 2023
First Cohort of apprentices complete Norfolk County Council’s Social Work Apprenticeship Scheme
Two of the first-ever graduates of a trailblazing new county council apprenticeship scheme have told how studying for social work degrees whilst being paid employees of the council, has changed their lives.
Heather Hart, who now works for the council’s Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children’s team, and Laura Thompson-Williams, who works in Family Assessment and Safeguarding in Norwich have both graduated with a BA Honours degree in social work thanks to a programme, which is one of the first of its kind in the country and is now leading the way for others.
Launched in January 2020, the three-year council scheme offers the apprentices a fully funded degree course and the opportunity to work four days a week across both Children’s and Adults’ Social Care whilst studying one day a week at college.
Heather, 53, who has worked for the county council for 17 years in various roles, including family support worker, said she wouldn’t have been in the financial position to do a full-time degree. She said: “The apprenticeship scheme has given me lots of new experiences and has opened up new opportunities that wouldn’t have been available before.”
A former dancer and teaching assistant at a Norwich primary school, Laura, 29, said she would have found it difficult to fund a course herself but now she feels she has so many amazing options. She said: “Doing the apprenticeship has definitely changed my life. I wouldn’t have had that focus and fulfilment and would be very stuck in terms of my life goals.”
Heather and Laura were among a cohort of 16 apprentices who marked their graduation from the programme at a special event at Norwich Castle on World Social Work Day (Tuesday 21 March). They both said the course had been challenging but they had received great support from the programme’s practice educators and colleagues in the Council’s Learning and Development team.
Cllr John Fisher, cabinet member for Children's Services said: “I was delighted to meet with such an enthusiastic group and be able to congratulate them on their achievements. The programme has been a resounding success and we are so proud of our apprentices who have worked with dedication and commitment. Building on the success of the programme, we look forward to continuing to produce our own future social workers”
The scheme was set up with Norwich City College and the University of East Anglia in response to the shortage of social workers with a key emphasis on ‘growing our own’ social workers. It aims to attract talented people with vocational/life experience, not necessarily proven academic ability, from current council employees. The latest cohort of 25 apprentices has just started their course.
However, the apprenticeship scheme is open to anyone with at least two years direct experience of working with children and families or adults with care and support needs and the Council is looking for their next cohort of the Social Work Apprentices (starting January 2024). Applications are open now until 5pm on 14th April. Those interested in applying can find out more by visiting Social Worker (Degree) Apprentice.
To find out more about other ways of becoming a social worker visit the council’s routes into social work web pages.