Accessibility Links
Quick Send CV
Cookies on our website
By continuing to use this website we will assume you are happy to receive cookies as outlined in our cookie policy
Accept Policy


The Department for Education (DfE) has said that local authorities plan to provide vocational training for 600 social workers, beginning in September 2018.




The idea of enabling social workers to train via a degree-level apprenticeship scheme was announced in July last year. A group of local authorities, supported by Skills for Care, launched a consultation on a new apprenticeship standard, outlining the practice, knowledge and skills required. In December the government confirmed the green light for the proposal. "A new social work apprenticeship has the potential to provide a paid, employment-based route into the profession as an alternative to undergraduate study," says the DfE's social work assessment and accreditation system consultation response.

Under the proposed apprenticeship scheme, trainee social workers would be paid and receive a mix of on and off-the-job training. At the end of the three-year apprenticeship, and after an assessment, they would receive a university degree. The apprenticeship scheme is being led by a group of around 30 social care employers in association with 30 universities across the UK.

Many principal social workers have supported the idea and are actively considering building the new apprenticeship scheme into their future workforce planning. It has been particularly well received by some of those who studied for the Certificate of Qualification in Social Work (CQSW), which was available between 1975 and 1991. They see the new apprenticeship as a similar route to qualification for those who prefer not to study full-time at university. By opening up the profession to less academic learners this doesn’t just raise the number of social workers on the ground in the immediate future. It’s also recruiting the Independent Assessors, Social Care Auditors and Service Managers of the next ten and twenty years! 

In an August 2017 blog post, Skills For Care Programme Head of Social Work, Graham Woodham, emphasised the positives of the new apprenticeship scheme, as well as addressing concerns that it may compromise academic standards. He described it as 'different way of learning not a different qualification' and a 'different assessment method not a different way of assessing'.

"The balance between on and off the job learning and the traditional academic/placement model we're familiar with is a challenge that has to be addressed," he wrote. "But the outcome is a different way of becoming a social worker – not a different qualification."

"We've lots of people in social care interested in moving into the social work workforce but at the moment there's a barrier for them," commented Jane Hanrahan, chair of the social work apprenticeships trailblazer group. "This scheme is all about removing the barrier."

The social work degree apprenticeship is part of a package of reforms being introduced by the government to improve standards in social work training and practice. Other planned changes include fast-track training routes and teaching partnerships with universities and a range of public, private, voluntary and independent organisations.
Email a friend

Meet the Head of Candidate Experience

Add new comment