The Open University launches social worker degree apprenticeship

The Open University has launched its Social Worker Degree Apprenticeship, supporting more people into higher education and providing a new, flexible route into becoming a social worker.

With 25 years experience of delivering work-based training in social work, The Open University recently completed a year-long study into improving retention and diversity in the sector – ‘Social Work for Everyone’ – funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (now Office for Students)[1].

The project highlighted the under-representation of men, disabled and BME workers, noting that the new degree apprenticeship qualification will provide an important sixth route to becoming a social worker. Not only can the new apprenticeship be used to develop existing support workers, increasing staff retention by offering clearly structured career progression, it can also be used to attract new people, who are currently underrepresented, into the workforce.

The apprenticeship learners will be supported by qualified social workers throughout, and the flexibility of The Open University's delivery also helps to meet the needs of diverse employees, allowing them to fit training around shift patterns and other commitments.  

To introduce the new apprenticeship and answer employers’ questions, The Open University will be hosting a free webinar on 19 March 2019 – An Introduction to the Social Worker Degree Apprenticeship.

Dr Joanna Rawles, Head of Social Work (England) at The Open University, said: "The Open University has a long history of providing employment-based social work education, so we are experienced in designing programmes with the needs of work-based learners and their employers in mind through a flexible combination of online, offline and face-to-face learning.  The OU has launched a social worker degree apprenticeship

“The Social Worker Degree Apprenticeship gives us an excellent opportunity to work in partnership with employers to develop and retain their staff, providing much-needed additional social workers. The Open University’s flexible model also opens up opportunities to those from a diverse range of backgrounds, many of whom are under-represented in the sector, by allowing those juggling various family and work commitments to study at degree level and gain a professional qualification.” 

The level-6 apprenticeship launch comes shortly after the Institute for Apprenticeships signed off the new employer-led standard in late 2018, joining The Open University’s existing BA (Hons) Social Work and PGDip/MA in Social Work. It will enable councils and private providers to make use of their apprenticeship levy funding, securing return on investment while addressing training challenges and widening participation.

At the end of the programme, which is expected to take an average of 36-40 months to complete, apprentices will receive an honours degree and be eligible to apply for registration as a social worker. The apprenticeship is designed to provide knowledge, skills and values required for effective social work practice to meet the diverse needs of children and adults.


The Social Worker Degree Apprenticeship covers:

·       Professional values and ethics;

·       Service user, carer and community views and experiences;

·       Decision making and analysis;

·       Professional development;

·       Safe professional practice and safeguarding;

·       Communication;

·       Working with others;

·       Recording and reporting

·       Use of technology; and

·       The legal context of social work


This week is National Apprenticeship Week 2019 – find out more about the degree apprenticeship at