Skills for Care

How the social work apprenticeship degree has supported me in my career

06 Feb 2024

3 min read

Natalie Pither

  • Apprenticeships
  • Learning and development
  • Social work

We hear from newly-qualified social worker Natalie Pither, Somerset Council, about how completing the social work apprenticeship degree prepared her for her ASYE and career in social care.

Before starting my social work apprenticeship degree my background had been working in the Royal Navy, and I had then been working in health for a couple of years and was working towards becoming a nursing associate.

Through my work assessing home care needs for people discharged from hospital, I found myself working closely alongside social workers and I was quickly intrigued as to what their role involved.

Following that I saw a role become available for an adult social care practitioner with Somerset Council, and so I applied and got that role. Luckily, not long after I’d started in this role the social work apprenticeship degree was introduced and my supervisor encouraged me to apply.

I was 41 when I started my degree, and I think it’s really important to note that there’s no age limit on further learning and career development. In fact, I actually enjoy learning more as I’ve gotten older and I find I’m able to be much more disciplined with my work/life balance. I had a dedicated study day once a week.

I have children and was still working while completing the degree, but in some ways I found that already having a quite chaotic life made it easier to throw an additional opportunity into the mix and I was proud of how I balanced it all.

Having completed my apprenticeship, I’m now the first person in my family to gain a degree which is a great achievement.

I started the apprenticeship in 2018 and it was a three-year degree in total. I completed it through the Open University while still working in my social care practitioner role at Somerset. The apprenticeship also involved undertaking placements across both adults and children's services.

One thing I enjoyed most about doing the degree was the opportunity to focus on learning and to discover that was something I was really passionate about.

The first year of the degree is very much focused on building those initial skills foundations, the second year develops that muscle further, and the third year is really about reflecting on and applying those learnings.

The support from Somerset Council during the degree was great. They ran lots of workshops as part of the apprenticeship, which helped bring the models and theories to life.

This has really helped to prepare me for my Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) which I’m completing now, as it applies a lot of the same models and theories.

It feels now like the ASYE is an extension of that degree and again offers continued support through my first year as a newly-qualified social worker.

I’ve been lucky to be able to undertake my ASYE within the team where I had already been working as a practitioner.

Once I complete my ASYE my next goal would be to progress into supervision and then an advanced practitioner role.

Somerset are very supportive in encouraging ongoing learning and development, and are proactive in sourcing any specific learning or training that people would like. That support has been key from my apprenticeship, to my ASYE and to supporting with my future learning and development.


Find out more about the social work apprenticeship degree.

Find out more about the ASYE.

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