Student Placement Top Tips: How to treat your Student Professional

Social Work
Practitioner Support
Student Social Work

Posted: 04 April 2017

Are you a Service Provider that has recently or about to take on a Student? Or are you a Student about to start placement? If the answer, is yes, here are some tips on how to get the best out of the Student/placement.

Students are not a source of revenue

Unfortunately, I have come across a number of Service Providers in my career as a Practice Educator that take on Students as a form of revenue. They see the pound sign instead of a good opportunity to develop a budding Professional. This is not conducive to learning and will often result in forms of resentment. It is right that in England and Wales, Universities usually pay a Service Provider £20 a day for a Student placement. However, this should be reflective of the work undertaken to develop the Student and not one where you lump four or five in one placement. I have often come across Students who struggle to link practical experiences to the PCF Requirements, due to the number of them in one placement. This is unfair and we should, as a caring profession, want to offer them the best possible opportunity to learn and develop. 

Learn from the Students

Yes, the idea of placements is so as they can develop their learning – linking the theory taught with practical experiences. However, as a Practice Educator, I loved taking on Students because I felt that I was developing my learning also. Remember, Students will have fresh and new ideas of working. They will come with new theories recently learnt during the academic stage of the course. This can act as a ‘refresher’ course for you and your colleagues within the organisation. Use this knowledge base to develop your own skills – which will have a positive impact on the outcomes or service delivery with Service Users. 

Let them learn and develop – it’s ok to make mistakes

The key to any successful placement is in the Service Providers ability to allow the Student to learn and develop their skill set. Obviously, this might result in making some mistakes. However, we should allow for this – Students, like Practitioners, need support the most when mistakes are made. We all make them, so the sooner we accept this the more conducive the learning will be on placement. Obviously, when I mean ‘mistakes’, I do not mean breaching safeguarding or increase vulnerability of the Service User(s). Use Professional Judgement to identify the best possible learning opportunity. This should be highlighted during the early stages of placement.

Do not see them are full-time employee’s

Remember, Students on placement are Students first and foremost. Do not see them as full-time employee’s that can assist in workload pressures of an organisation. Yes, it is right that they should experience the day to day work and challenges faced, but remember, they are there to learn and develop. In the past, I have come across a number of Students that have developed bad practice because of previous placement workload pressures. This meant that they ‘cut corners’ and developed bad ways of working – which, unfortunately, meant that when interviewed for full-time work, they were unsuccessful. 

Student Placement - Foundations of a Professional

As a Practice Educator, I often tell my Students that they need to focus on passing the PCF Requirement – whether first or final placement. Often, I have seen Students attempting to ‘run before they can walk’. What I mean by this is that they compare themselves against highly experienced Practitioners. This is unrealistic and will place too much pressure on the Student. Remember, Student placements are the foundations of a Professional. Use the experience to develop the best ways of working and practice. Once you have solid foundations, this will then help you fast track your development as a Professional.

I hope this assists both Student and Service Providers. I wish you all the very best of luck on placement. Remember to check out our free resources – such as the PCF Evidence Sheet and Reflective Logs (just type the key words in our search engine under ‘resources’). 

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