Fed Uni new courses to address shortages

Together: Federation University's Claire McLachlan, RDV Gippsland Sara Rhodes-Ward, Anglicare Victoria's Vicki Levey, Karen Sutherland (Dept of Families Fairness and Housing Inner Gippsland), FedUni Deputy Vice-Chancellor Wendy Cross, Latrobe Health Advocate Jane Anderson, FedUni Associate Deputy Vice-Chancellor Engagement Leigh Kennedy, Latrobe City Mayor Kellie O'Callaghan and FedUni Social Work Discipline Lead Jennifer Martin. Photograph: Zaida Glibanovic



IN an exciting announcement for the region, Federation University’s Churchill campus is launching two new social work courses to meet the demand for human services in Gippsland.

From 2024 onward, students can enrol in the Bachelor of Social Work and Master of Social Work (Qualifying) (Children & Families) courses which have been designed in partnership with local industry to meet the needs of the workforce.

Not only will these courses address skills shortages, but it will also give local students in Gippsland the opportunity to study at home where they can keep their community and family ties.

Extensive research across the local community service sector has found that around 250 roles will be needed in Gippsland in the near future.

Social workers are employed in a variety of government, non-government and community organisations that provide counselling, advocacy, community development, policy development and research in areas like early intervention and child protection, family support, community health, housing, disability, justice and aged care.

As part of the new courses, students will participate in 140 days of work placement in real-life learning, with the support of experienced professionals in the sector.

Federation University say they pride themselves on their co-operative learning model, where industry partnerships are key to integrated and successful outcomes.

Gippsland campus Bachelor of Social Work students will also be eligible to apply for the Gippsland Primary Health Network Scholarship, announced in July, which will provide financial support to students for the entire period of their degree.

The Master of Social Work (Qualifying) (Children & Families) is designed to get social workers ready with the skills and knowledge they need to take on leadership positions in the human services sector.

Federation University Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Professor Wendy Cross said the social work courses took 18 months of very specific targeted work.

“We’ve been talking about social work for quite a few years, but when we started really working with out partners in the sector it took 18 months,” she said.

“As Victoria’s premier regional university, we are working with industry to help address local workforce shortages and we are incredibly proud to collaborate with the Gippsland human services sector to offer these new social work courses.

“These courses have been co-designed in association with our industry partners and will equip students with the skills, knowledge and real-world experience they need to meet the high demand for social work graduates.”

Speaking to the regional need for social workers, Prof Cross said, “For every kilometre you move away from a metropolitan area the shortages grow.”

“What we’re seeing across the welfare sector and the mental health sector, there are growing needs.”

Eager to help Gippsland students stay in Gippsland, Prof Cross said social work students will no longer have to travel for education.

“What we know is about 70 per cent of students who study in the regions stay in the regions and work locally and build their lives locally,” Prof Cross said.

Expecting high demand, Prof Cross suspects around 50 to 60 students will enrol for the social work course in 2024.

Anglicare Victoria Gippsland Regional Director, Vicki Levey said the new courses are an exciting opportunity for Gippsland.

“The Gippsland community will be the biggest winners from Federation University’s decision to offer two new social work courses in the region from 2024. Local people will gain access to more skilled and qualified staff, and Anglicare Victoria will work closely with Federation University to develop the knowledge and skills of its students, while also providing hands-on sector experience and support to our future social workers,” she said.

“There is a significant need for social workers in Gippsland. These courses will give local people the opportunity to obtain a qualification and find a job close to home – it also means we can support our existing staff to further their studies within the social welfare sector.”