Former drama student Jacob talks about his rewarding job in social work

Jacob Jones joined an innovative graduate social worker training programme after caring for children in residential homes. He explains how his role makes a positive difference to family life through professional help and support.

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Tell us about your route into social work

When I finished university, I received my degree and I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do next. I started working in residential care for looked-after children, which was a real eye opener for me. From there, I knew that social work was a career path I wanted to follow. After spending a year working in residential care, I decided I wanted to further my career and the Frontline programme was the next logical step.

You don’t have to have experience of working with children and families to apply, though. Anyone with a degree can apply, no matter the subject. What’s more important is demonstrating your empathy and motivation to become a social worker .

Tell us more about the Frontline programme − what’s different about the scheme?

The programme starts with a five-week summer school course where you are taught the very basics of social work and the basis of what makes Frontline’s way of doing social work different. Once on placement, working directly with children and families, you attend a fortnightly training day, expanding on the theory and its relevance to your day-to-day practice. After one year on placement, you qualify as a social worker and after two you complete a fully-funded master’s degree.

What tips can you share for the application process and assessment centre?

Just be yourself. It sounds clichéd but be genuine. This is a rigorous application process and I found myself at my most confident when I was just being my most authentic self. The assessment centre was an experience to say the least! Doing it all online was something I found difficult. My advice is to go into both the role play and conversation with a care-experienced person and be as genuine as possible.

How much contact do you have with other social worker trainees?

I met other participants from across the regions during the summer school and now I meet up with people from other units within my region every two weeks, on our training days.

What does a Frontline programme social worker do in a typical day?

I am currently on a referral and assessment team. This involves me visiting families who have been referred to social services to see whether the local authority can offer support, if needed. If a family needs support then I would be assigned to them and work with them over several weeks. I would complete direct work with children and families, supporting them to make positive changes and meet the needs of the children. I would visit the children at home and at school, attend meetings with other professionals, and complete any paperwork.

While you’re training, how much guidance do you receive?

A consultant social worker oversees everything I do and if I have any queries or problems I go straight to them. I also have a regional practice tutor who supports my academic work: they come and check in with me every two weeks and they also offer support and guidance with anything I may need.

You train, study and earn while you learn − how does that work in practice?

The idea is that theory and practice go together; you can’t have one without the other. Being able to observe people within your local authority and adapt their way of work into your own practice is a great way to learn and to reinforce the tools taught by Frontline. My consultant social worker offers a huge amount of support in improving my practice, which you probably wouldn’t get in a purely academic setting.

How does social work improve lives and what is the most rewarding part of your job?

Just being able to come into people’s lives and having the chance to create a positive impact is worthwhile. No two days are the same. It’s a job that definitely keeps you on your toes.

During my current role there are constant moments of small but significant positive impact. For example, I have been working with a family to improve their home conditions. It can be such a challenge to help them find the motivation to change their living environment, but they’ve been making real progress.

What have you learned about yourself since starting the Frontline programme?

Social work is a career choice that really does test your integrity as a person. I have adapted and gained resilience since beginning this scheme and I feel the benefits of that myself.

What would you say to other graduates thinking about becoming a social worker?

If you want a job that has a purpose, then this is the graduate scheme to apply for.

What advice would you give to graduates joining the Frontline programme?

Just throw yourself at any opportunity offered to you. Seeing how other people work and then utilising the skills offered from Frontline is a great place to start.

Do you have any ideas about where you’d like your career to take you in the future?

I’m motivated by working with people and making a real difference to their lives. In my current role as a social worker I’m doing both, so I haven’t thought much about my next steps yet.

Frontline programme fast facts

  • Frontline focuses entirely on children and families.
  • Graduates join a two-year salaried social work training programme.
  • Your career starts with five weeks of intensive training.
  • In year one, you work on real life cases led by an experienced social worker, with additional support from a practice tutor.
  • In year two, you qualify as social worker and hold your own caseload, with continued support and professional coaching.
  • Throughout the programme you work towards a fully funded masters degree.

Visit the Frontline website to find out more and apply for the Frontline programme.

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