Uni welcomes first cohort of unique social work degree – with a view to address workforce shortages

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

La Trobe University has today welcomed the first cohort of students undertaking the bespoke Master of Social Work (Child and Family Practice) degree, created to help address critical workforce shortages, in sectors supporting the most vulnerable in the community.

Through the Victorian State Government’s Switch to Social Work initiative, 67 fully funded students will undertake the course, which offers hands-on expertise and will fast-track comprehensive care to people in need.

Boosting numbers in the care economy

The care economy, consisting of services such as social work, has become the nation’s largest and fastest-growing sector with predictions 9,000 jobs will open in Australia by 2026.

Professor Susan Dodds FAHA, Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Industry Engagement) welcomed Mr Danny O’Kelly, Deputy Secretary, Community Operations and Practice Leadership Division, Department of Families, Fairness and Housing, to meet the students on their first day.

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“The Switch to Social Work program will provide aspiring social workers with the support and education they need to work in the rewarding field of child and family practice. La Trobe is proud to contribute our world class expertise in this field to support the Victorian Government to increase the number of qualified social workers needed in this field,” Professor Dodds says.

Last year, La Trobe launched a Care Economy Research Institute (CERI) and is currently leading a bid for a Commonwealth funded Care Economy CRC bid. This bid brings together 50 partners contributing ~$35M to transform the quality, productivity and outcomes of aged care, disability services, healthcare, family services and social housing. The aim is to improve productivity and help overcome chronic skills shortages.

Social workers with life experience

Social Work is a diverse career path which can lead to roles in schools, family support and child protection, youth justice and family violence agencies, drug and alcohol services, the disability sector and mental health.

The Master of Social Work is a two-year program for people who already have a bachelor’s degree and would like to change careers.

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The course is available across La Trobe’s Melbourne, as well as two of the institution’s regional campuses and offers a unique pathway into social work via the earn and learn model, combining study, training and paid work.

Creating job-ready graduates

With the support of the university’s community partners, students will graduate job-ready to work in the child and family services sector.

Professor Dodds says the demand for social workers is reflected in La Trobe’s annual survey of graduates which reveals up to 95 per cent of social work students gained employment within six months of graduating.

“Social workers are in huge demand globally and this course offers them the opportunity to design and implement programs that can address social welfare issues.”

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live