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2018 Social Work Workforce Development Summit

Joel L. Rubin, MSW, ACSW, CAE
NASW-Illinois Chapter Executive Director

Social Work Workforce Development Summit

Friday, April 20, 2018

NASW Illinois Chapter

On Friday, April 20, 2018, the NASW-Illinois Chapter convened a Social Work Workforce Development Summit. Over 50 statewide leaders from the social work employment/practice arena and schools of social work came together to discuss ways in which the two sectors can work together to strengthen the preparation of social workers entering the work force and ensuring the important role that social work will continue to play in the human service market place. We are moving forward with plans to continue this dialogue and help move this vital issue forward.

The following is a link to the opening roundtable video which addresses core competencies required for the social work workplace: https://youtu.be/U2fzmMH6nkQ

Below is a full written summary of the summit gathering.

Over 50 statewide leaders from the social work employment/practice arena and schools of social work came together to discuss ways in which the two sectors can work together to strengthen the preparation of social workers entering the work force and ensuring the important role that social work will continue to play in the human service market place.

The summit grew out of the Council on Social Work Educations (CSWE) National Workforce Initiative’s initial product, "Profile of the Social Work Workforce," which was release last fall.  The second product of the workforce study is now available entitled, “New Social Workers:  Results of the Nationwide Survey of 2017 Social Work Graduates.” 

NASW National President Kathy Wehrmann moderated a morning roundtable that included, Mary Gollings, LCSW, NASW IL Chapter President, Supervisor at Jesse Brown VA, Robyn Golden, LCSW, Association Vice President of Population Health and Aging Rush University Medical Center, Theresa Nihill, LCSW, Chief Operating Officer, Metropolitan Family Services and Joe Harper, LCSW, MBA, Administrator, Chester Mental Health Center.  The roundtable participants addressed the following two questions:

  1. As an employer of social workers, what competencies and skill sets are you looking for in new hires?
  2. What do new hires in your settings have the most difficulty with?


Roundtable participants noted the following competencies and skills needed for new hires:

  • Being open to feedback
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Leadership proficiency
  • Strong writing and presenting skills
  • Understanding why one is a social worker
  • Not being inhibited to speak up, serve a

Roundtable participants noted the following difficulties that new hires experience:

  • Understanding professionalism, adhering to professional dress codes
  • Social work safety
  • Understanding scope of practice
  • Technology literacy
  • Work life balance
  • Managing day to day tasks of a social worker

A video of the roundtable can be found at:


Breakout Session One - What are the core competencies needed across practice lines?

Group One – Moderator, Bernie Dyme, President, Perspectives Ltd.

  • Soft skills needed
  • Engage students to identify needs
  • Help developing professional identity
  • Professionalismàstart where the student is at
  • Incorporating more into orientation and going farther than that
  • Writing skills need work
  • Being able to take “no” for an answer
  • Importance of modeling professional dress in the schools
  • Use of technology
  • Help students value the profession of social work
  • Should be training social workers with business skills as well
  • Can’t lose focus on social justice and core values of social work. How do we incorporate above with this?
  • Recruitingàjobs available but not filled

Group Two – Moderator, Alexander Brown, Executive Director, Friedman Place

  • Core generalist skillsàbeing able to do psychosocial assessment
  • Need cultural comp. and continue to learn
  • Leadership skills needed
  • Value of prevention focused work
  • Ethics
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Use of data in practice
  • Internships not incorporating program evaluation skills
  • Personal awarenessàwhy I’m drawn to the field, recognizing triggers
  • Recruitment struggles
  • Clientele
  • Fear
  • Retention
  • Lack of skillsàcritical thinking
  • LCPC in social work roles
  • Agencies don’t have time to wait to train
  • We need to advocate for the profession
  • Possibility of DSW

The following is a summary of the main points from the afternoon breakout sessions by practice areas:

Mental Health – Moderated by Marvin Lindsey, CEO, Community Behavioral Healthcare Association (CBHA)

  • Skills
  • Assessment
  • Understanding systems
  • Knowledge around chemical dependency
  • Basic mental health training
  • Flexible in thought
  • Ability to work on a team and in a fast-paced environment
  • Understanding different world views and communities
  • Critical thinking
  • Demands of paperwork
  • Trained in trauma focused therapies
  • Understanding evidence-based practice
  • Working with children/ adolescence
  • Working with diverse clientele
  • What do new hires struggle with?
  • Navigating self-care and caring for others
  • Advocating for good clinical supervision
  • Courage!
  • Managing a program is different than managing people
  • Professional development is different than leadership development
  • Handling crisis situations
  • Productivity
  • Technology
  • Familiarity with child development
  • Providing short term intervention
  • Both sides of work life balance


Child Welfare– Moderated by Brent Diers, Director of Clinical Services, Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois (LCFS)

  • Big challenge is high rate of turnover but there are higher expectations for performance
  • School should help develop child welfare skills from the beginningàDCFS Foundations trainings happening in the social work programs helps
  • Evidence-based trauma skills are important
  • Challenge of having supervisors that haven’t had a lot of experienceàgrad programs could develop certificate programs to help increase those skills
  • Complianceàcommunity involvement and engagement to keep client and professional compliant
  • Social work should engage with young community activists
  • Broaden the net to recruit and inform students what social work is
  • Social work as a calling
  • It’s okay to work your way up and start at the bottom
  • Courageous conversationsàproviding constructive criticism on job performance

Aging Moderated by Andy Teitelman, Co-Chair, NASW IL Older Adults Shared Interest Group (SIG)

  • Small group and interest in aging is low amongst social workers
  • Key competencies
  • Strong knowledge in gerontology/aging process
  • Knowledge of care givers and their role
  • Challenge to find good job/intern opportunities in aging
  • Other areas intersect with older adults, so agencies could benefit having employees with knowledge
  • Stereotype of seniors- how do we help young social workers/students
  • Partnership with AARP to help change view of older adults

School Social Work– Moderated by Amy Greenberg, Director of Internships & Student Services, Loyola University Chicago School of Social Work.

  • Skills
  • Familiarity with MTSS (Multi-tier systems of support)
  • Familiar with individual, group work and classroom interventions
  • Flexible and adaptable
  • Addressing emotional needs of all students
  • Advocacy for role in the school and recognizing the worth of the profession
  • Collaboration is key. Member of multidisciplinary team once in the school
  • What are new hires struggling with?
  • Data collection and analysis
  • Time managementàgetting things done in a timely manner. How to prioritize tasks
  • Crisis intervention
  • Writing skillsàprofessional emails, assessments
Posted on 05/11/18 at 11:58 AM


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