Solving social work skill shortages

Mental health clinicians say degree-qualified social workers could be the answer to solving “dire” workforce shortages in the Mildura region.

La Trobe University enables the community to upskill their previous study to a degree in social work amid desperate calls from industry partners.

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.

Zoe Burnett, Lecturer of Social Work at La Trobe’s Rural Allied Health School, said social work has changed dramatically over the years, leading to diverse job opportunities.

“There are many misconceptions about social work and people may be overlooking this as a career path, because they simply don’t know what it entails,” Zoe Burnett said.

“Social workers are in schools and youth services, in family support and child protection, forensics and family violence agencies, drug and alcohol services, the disabilities sector and mental health.

“They advocate for people and communities, identify areas where the system may be failing and seek solutions to change it.”

The demand for social workers is reflected in La Trobe’s annual survey of graduates, which revealed up to 95 per cent of social work students gained employment within six months of graduating.

La Trobe Master of Social Work alum Georgia Marciano secured a permanent, ongoing, position as a clinician at Berry Street, in the Take Two program in Mildura, following her final placement at the end of 2022.

“I work across several different programs at Take Two, including supporting children and families in our community therapeutically and assisting in addressing the mental health impacts from trauma they have experienced through abuse, neglect or adverse experiences,” Georgia Marciano said.

The University qualification has enabled Georgia to pursue her dream job as a clinician working in the trauma space.

“I have loved every minute of it thus far and if it wasn’t for my time at La Trobe, I wouldn’t have been able to secure my dream job and be able to give back to the community which is something I’m super passionate about,” the clinician said.

Georgia received an Early Career Award across Victoria’s Berry Street network for her dedication and strong advocacy for families.

La Trobe University works closely with industry partners to address community needs by ensuring graduates are job ready and able to meet the demands of the current and future workforce.

The Mallee Family Violence Executive works with La Trobe to promote the social work sector as a rewarding career with endless opportunities.

“There are definitely some amazing, young and inspiring social workers coming through locally, like Georgia who’ve had positive experiences at La Trobe,” Principal Strategic Advisor Donna Strong said.

“These are our future leaders, and the industry is very fortunate to have them as we’re finding ongoing recruitment challenges across all community service organisations.”

Zoe said a Diploma in Community Services at SuniTAFE was an important pathway to a La Trobe degree in social work.

More information about La Trobe University’s social work courses can be found here.

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