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University Centre Shrewsbury (UCS) is one of the first institutes of higher education in the country to offer the new Social Work Apprenticeship. The degree programme is an alternative pathway to the traditional three-year, full-time academic route to a Social Work qualification, and is intended for those already working in social care. The first cohort, who were chosen from a pool of more than 100 applicants, begin their academic studies with a three-day induction next week.  

“We are delighted to work with Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin Councils to create this important new entry to Social Work in our area,” said Professor Anna Sutton, Provost of UCS. “This programme will have a direct impact on the quality of care for our most vulnerable neighbours.” 

The Social Work apprenticeships combine full-time work with academic study, allowing people who have experience in social care support roles to earn a living while studying. The apprentices will work full-time in Adults and Children Services for Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin Councils and attend lectures every Wednesday during term time. The programme offers a balance between academic theory, critical and applied thinking and real world experience. At the end of the three-year programme, the students will have gained work experience in the field, earned a BA (Hons) Social Work, and be a qualified Social Worker.  Local Councils will benefit by having a pool of much needed, experienced and qualified Social Workers.  

“The apprenticeship opens the entry routes to Social Work to a broader and more diverse cohort of people who already have valuable experience in Social Care,” said Rachel Hek, Programme Lead, Apprenticeship in Social Work, UCS. “Our first cohort has years of experience in social care that will enrich the programme.” 

There is a high demand for qualified Social Workers nationally, as well as locally. According to the most recent government figures, there is an 8% vacancy rate for Social Workers in Adult Services nationwide, and double that amount in Children’s Services.  The vacancies put added pressure on Social Workers, making an already demanding job even more challenging, and negatively impacts the critical continuity and stability in relationships between users and carers. To find and keep highly skilled Social Workers, Councils find themselves competing for the same pool of qualified Social Workers, often having to rely on agency social workers to fill shortages, while at the same time the need for services has increased dramatically over the past few years.

Rachel Hek is a qualified Social Worker and has worked extensively in children’s services.  She will lead UCS’s programme, working alongside a team of experienced academics. Prior to joining UCS, Ms Hek was Head of Practice Learning at the University of Birmingham. She is also an Inspector of Social Work courses for the professional regulator, Social Work England, and continues to be involved in Social Work practice. 

University Centre Shrewsbury is now in its fifth year and offers high quality teaching, learning and research on 23 undergraduate and 11 postgraduate degree programmes. Set within the medieval and beautiful town of Shrewsbury, we offer a supportive community of passionate and inspiring academics and staff who strive to ensure our students can pursue their individual interests and academic goals. 


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