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Caithness News Bulletins January 2003

January 2003 Caithness.org News 2002

Dec 2002

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The Highland Council has recorded a recruitment success, which could prove an inspiration to other councils facing the difficulty of recruiting qualified social workers.

Through its Social Work Service, the Council has introduced a new trainee scheme, which gives staff the security of a job and the benefits of on-the-job training for a professional qualification.

The Council was delighted with the response to its advert for its new trainee scheme. For around 1,000 people enquired about the jobs and no fewer than 250 people sent in applications. 30 of those were interviewed for just eight jobs.  The new staff took up their positions in Alness, Fort William, Inverness, Thurso and Wick earlier this week and were introduced to the Housing and Social Work Committee at the start of today's meeting.

Councillor Garry Coutts, Chairman of the Housing and Social Work Committee, said: "We have really bucked the national trend here with this recruitment success story. It demonstrates that, given the right incentives, there is a demand for people to work in social work. This will encourage other councils in Scotland, who like us, face real challenges in recruiting social work staff."

Harriet Dempster, Director of Social Work, said: "The quality of the applications was extremely high and it is proof that, for so many people, social work is an attractive option. If our pilot is a success, I'm sure we will extend the scheme."

Many of the applicants already had careers in other types of work, such as youth work, teaching, or nursing but had decided that they wanted to switch to social work.

The trainee scheme allows them to gain a professional qualification through distance learning with the Open University, whilst having the security and experience of  full-time employment in a social work setting. This is ideal for those who have family commitments or are unable to fund themselves through a two or three year course.

One of the new trainees is Katrina Beaton, who will be based in Alness. Over the past two years, she has worked with primary school children as a care worker at the Alness New Community School.  She recently gained an honours degree in social policy through the Open University and is looking forward to renewing her distance learning studies.

She said: "For financial reasons, I could not dedicate the time to study for a professional social work qualification. But I now have the security of a job and the opportunity of on-the-job training, through distance learning. I think this is a really good way of recruiting social work staff and I am sure many more people would welcome this route into a career in social work."

The scheme is just part of a range of initiatives aimed at tackling the shortage of qualified social workers, which is a national problem that has been recognised by the Scottish Executive through their Life Changing Work campaign.

For many posts in the Social Work Service in Highland a social work qualification is not required, as skills from other backgrounds are equally valued and services are increasingly offered jointly with other services such as education.

New posts are about to be advertised for Children's Services Workers and Keyworkers, which are part of an expansion of family support services throughout Highland.