Paid Internship Program

Building a pipeline for workforce readiness in social work graduates

About the project

The practice of student placements provides a valuable construct for work-integrated learning and has reciprocal benefits for students and employers, including employment readiness.  There is increasing pressure on training facilities to produce well educated and workforce-ready, highly competent health and human services professionals to meet the growing demands of the changing community.

The Paid Internship Program aims to: 

  • Build the pipeline of qualified and workforce ready graduate social workers into the child and family services sector 
  • Create alternative models for field education placements to enhance pathways into child and family services.  
Who is involved in this project?
  • The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare as coordinator and project evaluator 
  • Universities providing student placements 
  • Community service organisations providing field education experience   
  • 4th Year Social Work students eligible for entry in 2021 via an application and selection process. 

"It has been a real-world experience. The students have been embedded in an agency as new staff and they have been expected to be the same as any other staff member. The students have said it has improved their confidence. What was all theory before has been put into practice."

"The advantages start at the beginning of the process. [Interns] have to prepare for an interview, write a resume and attend the interview. It was treated as a job and there was a rigorous process."

"[Interns] know they have the skills and experience to fully pick up a case load because they have done the work prior...There is also a level of upskilling in the agency. Having the interns come in with recent social work [training] is a bonus and they are teaching the others."

Why we need this project

Our research confirmed international and national trends across the social work area in relation to: 

  • crisis in Field Education generally in locating student placements with qualified supervisors 
  • A projected rapid growth for the industry over the next five years, and consequent demand for qualified and capable professionals 
  • The struggle students experience to juggle the mandatory field education requirements and study obligations, with family and other life responsibilities. These challenges: 
      • undermine students’ engagement with learning 
      • severely impact their financial stability and their overall physical health and emotional wellbeing  
      • can result in deferral or withdrawal from studies. 

What we want to achieve

Through the paid internship pilot – initiated in 2020 and now in its second year – we want to: 

  • Attract students through provision of employment and contribute toward a living wage while they are pursuing studies 
  • Increase the pool of social workers by providing for candidates outside the current service system  
  • Retain highly capable, motivated workers for the long term 
  • Build leaders of the future using a systems-thinking approach and leadership-oriented development  
  • Provide heavily practice-based training with a high ratio of dedicated social work leaders to train participants  
  • Increase the professionalisation and educational attainment levels of social workers. 

How we will do it

We are currently seeking Expressions of Interest from other community service organisations with an interest in being involved in this pilot.  

Organisations would need to be prepared to provide a minimum of 2 days per week employment and be able to facilitate a 3 day a week field education placement for 70 days.   

Organisations will also be responsible for recruitment processes for employment including interview of potential interns, referee checks, CrimCheck, WWCC, organisation induction etc. Support can be provided by project staff at the Centre throughout this process. 

Social Work students entering their 4th year will be employed with a local notforprofit organisation throughout 2021 (to be negotiated with the organisation). The program does not guarantee employment for the student beyond this time.  

Want to know more? Get in touch

Contact: Project Officer or (03) 9614 1577.  


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