A programme which enables talented graduates to train to become fully qualified mental health social workers is set to be extended by the City of Wolverhampton Council.
The council welcomed its first group of four graduates last summer after being selected to help pioneer a new way of improving support for people with mental illness.
Joanne Shenton, Becky Shinton, Amy Leason and Jack Buckler are nearly six months into an intensive two-year programme mixing real life work experience with academic learning and leadership training.
Now the council is planning for the arrival of a second cohort who are expected to arrive in Wolverhampton later this year.
The innovative programme is run the council in conjunction with the Black Country Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and the charity Think Ahead. It provides on-the-job training, enabling the graduates to become fully qualified social workers.
Jack said: “The Think Ahead programme has proven to be a challenging, intense, and thoroughly enjoyable experience so far.
“We have felt incredibly welcomed and we are very grateful for the support that all the staff we have worked with have given us. Their commitment and knowledge has been essential to our learning experience and an inspiring example to us as future practitioners.”
Councillor Sandra Samuels OBE, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults, said: “The Think Head programme is pioneering a new approach to bringing talented individuals into the social work profession.
“The initial cohort have settled in to their roles well, enjoying a varied mix of training and real life experience to give them the skills they need to take on what is a very challenging role.
“We are now looking to extend the programme and welcome a further four graduates later this year as part of our commitment to develop our workforce and further improve the already high standard of social work practice in Wolverhampton.”
Like their predecessors, the second cohort of graduates will take part in six-week residential course this summer before joining the council in September. They will spend their first year learning on-the-job under the guidance of an experienced mental health social worker while also gaining a Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work, needed for registration as a qualified social worker.
In their second year they will take on newly qualified social worker roles in their service, and work towards a Master’s Degree in Social Work.
A similar programme is also underway in children’s social care, with the council working with charity Frontline to offer university leavers and people changing careers a way into the profession. The first quartet will join the council this autumn, and benefit from intensive practical and academic training tailored to their needs.