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Social Work Student Selection and Recruitment: Context, Challenges, Drivers and Strategic Recommendations Professor Allister Butler North West University.

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Presentation on theme: "Social Work Student Selection and Recruitment: Context, Challenges, Drivers and Strategic Recommendations Professor Allister Butler North West University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Social Work Student Selection and Recruitment: Context, Challenges, Drivers and Strategic Recommendations Professor Allister Butler North West University ASASWEI (Cape Town) September 2010

2 Overview  Context  Literature  Dpt of Social Development  Challenges  Internal and External Drivers  Selection and Recruitment Strategies  Conclusion

3 CONTEXT  Social Work as a Scarce Skill  Commitment re: training and producing more graduate social workers  Dpt of Social Development – Government based bursaries for Social Work students  Link to SACSSP 27 Exit Outcomes/5 Categories  Resulted in significant and exponential increase in students accessing social work education and training at HEI’s nationwide  What has the impact been on HEI’s?

4 Literature  Sunday Times (1 August 2010). “Varsities raise the bar for first year students.” “The high failure rate among first year students has prompted several institutions to tighten their admission requirements next year.” (pg 1)  Nicci Earle (2008). Social Work in Social Change: The profession and education of social workers in South Africa (part of HSRC “Professions and Professional Education”)  National Standardised SW degree  Demographic changes – white female to black female  Graduation trends are negative  Losses due to immigration

5 Literature  Jean Benjamin “South Africa requires social workers over the next 3 years in an effort to ensure services are provided to those most in need. However, Universities are only producing approximately 300 social workers per year.”

6 Dpt of Social Development  What does the Dpt of Social Development say re: Government sponsored social work student bursaries?  “As part of the Retention Strategy and Initiative to address Critical and Scarce Skills in the Sector, the Dpt of Social Development offers student[s] who want to pursue a career in Social Work a bursary in the field.”  “To apply for a bursary an incumbent needs to first apply to the Institution of Higher Learning i.e. University....”  Upon examination no reference is made to minimum standards/criteria re: selection (except for a matriculation certificate)

7 Dpt of Social Development  Therefore the responsibility falls upon each HEI to set their own selection criteria and admissions standards  Do HEI’s and the Dpt of Social Development have the same established selection criteria?  Are these entrance criteria of a sufficiently high academic standard?  In order to maintain and improve our professional status as social workers should we increase (or at least standardise) our entrance criteria?  Is this possible? Is it appropriate?

8 Challenges  The need to have robust and rigorous selection criteria  Safeguard the impact on the Professionalisation of Social Work  Quantity of student numbers VERSUS quality of social work education and training  Create a BALANCE between: Redressing historical factors Widening participation Access to tertiary education Promoting academic AND social work standards

9 Challenges  Impact on Practice Education and the Practice Community. Can they absorb all these social work students under their supervision – in spite of their own caseloads and other supervisory responsibilities?  Is there a potential of compromising the quality of practice education?  What about massive class sizes – is this effective/appropriate. Does it compromise basic teaching and learning principles/adult learning?  How do you conduct skills based lab work with 150 students e.g. group work skills and models of intervention  Will ALL these students find social work posts once they graduate?

10 Internal and External Drivers/Pressures  Universities are driven by market driven principles and income generation strategies  Therefore our Faculties “enjoy” the guaranteed pay cheques from our social work students  It supports their annual financial planning as they are able to predict the number of social work students enrolling in each academic year (based on bursaries)  What happens if social work dpt’s said “we are only going to select and enrol the top/most qualified candidates?”  Do internal and external drivers/pressures have an impact on our selection and recruitment strategies?

11 Internal and External Drivers/Pressures  Will this have an impact on HR/staffing levels?  Is there a possibility we may allow students to progress from one academic year to the next (in spite of poor academic performance) due to the “fear” that non- progression a student may lose their bursary  Can we achieve rigorous academic outcomes with such large classes – in excess of in some cases.  Does this compromise the critical importance of practice and skills based teaching and learning?

12 Selection and Recruitment Strategy  We must commit to service user involvement and consultation re: student selection  Proposed selection protocol (6 tier approach) 1.Prospective students submit a letter of intent/motivation: “Why have a I chosen to study social work?” 2.On site Written test. The goal is not to test social work knowledge – but rather to assess potential for academic writing 3.On site Group exercise. To assess the ability to articulate an opinion, debate and explore a topic, present and follow and argument, critical thinking skills etc 4.Based on 1,2,3 (above) the social work academic dpt shortlists candidates 5.Formal interviews are conducted with shortlisted candidates 6.Final decision making using clearly defined and established selection criteria

13 Selection and Recruitment Strategy  Further curriculum development: Develop and Deliver an Academic Support/Skills Development programme (in the first semester of their first year)  This is an intensive programme of learning in addressing limitations in selected social work students academic skills. This module does not have to be credit ranked.  The question remains: What occurs if a first student fails this Academic Development module? Can they progress into the second semester of year 1 (or into Year 2 the following year?)

14 Conclusion  BASW is not only an academic degree but more importantly it is a professional degree leading to registration with the SACSSP  Can we find a BALANCE between widening participation and access selection criteria AND maintaining academic and social work standards in our training  YES – if we place more emphasis on nationwide standardised selection criteria and admissions standards and protocols


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