While some people know social work is the path for them, some leave university just knowing they want to make a career out of helping others, and the Frontline graduate scheme appeals to both types of people. Frontline is a scheme that recruits university graduates to participate in a two-year program that trains and prepares them to be a children’s social worker. They also run internship programs and employ university students as Brand Managers so that undergraduates can be involved with and promote the scheme on campus.
Frontline was founded by University of Edinburgh graduate, Josh MacAlister, after participating in Teach First and realizing that the children he worked with could use the help of social workers. Since there was no existing platform that was similar to Teach First for social work, he turned his idea into Frontline and founded the company in 2013. Since Frontline is newer than Teach First, the scheme hopes to raise awareness about their program, and raise interest in and support for the field of social work in general.
In the leadership program that Frontline offers, participants experience a five-week training program followed by two full years of social work in a “local authority children’s services department.” Members of the program also leave with a Master’s degree in social work and are set up to continue their career as a fully qualified social worker. According to the Frontline website, the leadership program is “carefully designed to support you to work with purpose in a range of challenging settings to bring about change.”
Frontline not only hopes to make an impact on the people they help through social work, but also impact the field of social work itself by addressing the issue of gender imbalances and the stigma around social work. According to the General Social Care Council, an organization that regulates social work in England, 77 per cent of social workers in the country are female. Furthermore, the percentage of men who are involved with the Frontline program reflects the general lack of men in social work, with only 24 per cent of program participants being male. The lack of men in social work is an issue that Frontline aims to tackle, by reaching out to male students who might be interested in participating in their program.
Claudia Breakwell, a fourth year student at Edinburgh and a campus Brand Manager for Frontline, spoke about the significance of the inclusion of men in the world of social work; “It’s important for young children who are in vulnerable situations, [for example] if there’s a boy or even if there’s a girl who has better relationships with the men in her life than the women, it’s good for there to be an even mix of people going in so that they can get a social worker who is really going to work for them.”
More men in social work can mean more positive male role models for children and can widen the choice that children have when interacting with social workers. Frontline is trying to include more men in the field by focusing efforts on male university students who would be likely to apply to the program. The hope is that by exposing male university students to the scheme early on, it can counteract the fact that fewer men even consider social work as a career option. Breakwell noted how the Brand Managers of Frontline are targeting male students, “Something Frontline is really trying to do is appeal to men and so the kinds of things that we are trying to do is go into more male-oriented lectures like maths and physics.”
Further, Breakwell noted that the Frontline program should appeal to everyone, since it sets participants up for a career in social work, but they can switch to any other field or career after the program. Breakwell said, “The training you get over those two years, the idea is that you get a lot of personal leadership development out of that training that means that if you want to go into a different area that is related, but maybe slightly different, that you don’t have to stay in social work afterwards.” Since the program helps people gain valuable skills that can be used in almost any discipline, Breakwell indicated that the two-year program is beneficial to the participant even if they don’t choose to go into social work.
Apart from tackling the issue of gender in the world of social work, Frontline also hopes to shift how social work is viewed in our society.
“Frontline is trying to change the perception of social work, [because] the way they are portrayed in the media is not very positive, I think they are always considered to be doing too little or too much. Social workers are seen as either interfering in people’s lives or they are seen as they didn’t interfere enough,” said Breakwell.
To fight this stigma, Frontline centers their efforts around showing people that social work is life-changing for children and is extremely important for our country. On Frontline’s website, there are many different mediums through which they are getting the word out and spreading their message; through promotional videos and an active blog, among others. They also have testimony from graduates of the program and former university students who weren’t sure of their career plan, and chose the Frontline program because all they knew is that they wanted to help people.
Breakwell added, “It’s not necessarily considered that desirable to do, and I think Frontline is trying to [show] that this is a really incredible thing to do; if you can do this for two years then that’s going to be really great.”
As a Brand Manager, Breakwell’s job is to promote and raise awareness for the scheme, so she discussed why she is involved in Frontline and what she wants people to know about it. She said, “I massively believe that it’s a really good scheme, especially I think there’s a massive climb at the moment of a lot of people finishing uni and not wanting to decide what they want to do for the rest of their lives at the age of like 21. So I think that it’s really important that people know that there are are alternatives to Teach First; there’s Frontline and there’s another scheme called Think Ahead which is for social work for people with mental health problems. So it’s about getting the word out.”
Finally, Breakwell noted why she is passionate about the program and the Frontline scheme in general, saying: “The thing that really appeals to me about the scheme is the opportunity to do something really good in terms of changing someone’s life but also getting that personal development yourself, so I feel like it’s beneficial to all parties who are involved in the scheme.”
Image: A1C Hunter Brady