“Student placements are important to the social care sector, because hands-on experience is key to a carer’s development, confidence and practical knowledge,” says Martin Garratt, General Manager of BS Social Care. “We actively encourage all of the clients we work with to offer placements to social care students, knowing that this will result in a skilled, enthusiastic workforce for them in the long-term.” But, he said, the model must have the support of the employers and the regulators.
The social care sector has a shortage of job candidates relative to vacancies, and BS Social Care is among those working to drive up interest in the sector as a career choice among all generations of the workforce, including students, Garratt said – and a lack of placements would set back the effort.
“This unfortunately leads to many not completing their studies, and those that do sometimes find it more difficult to secure employment due to a lack of practical experience,” Garratt said.
The extent of the placement shortfall varies by region, with employers in the Midlands and Yorkshire more likely to report a drop in placements. In particularly short supply are statutory placements – those that give students the experience of social work involving legal intervention, according to the research report. It was based on surveys of 466 social work employers in England. The report is one of the last projects of the General Social Care Council. Its regulatory functions will transfer to the Health and Care Professions Council at the end of July.
The GSCC recommends that colleges and universities work with employers to plan for an adequate number of placements to meet the growing demand.