22 SES 07 D, Graduates and Employability
Contemporary attempts to standardize social professions and the training of social professionals are interpreting vocational training and education as integral part of social professions (Johnsson and Svensson 2005).Continuous self-renewal is vital for the Social Work profession, as it needs to permanently improve its ability to adapt to changes in the requirements of the professional activity (changes in social problems and needs). There are several important questions about this: What are the effects of these changes on the status and prestige of Social Work profession? How does training respond? What is the lasting impact of training on the development of social policies, social services and social professions?
The answers given to these questions might significantly differ from country to country. In the United Kingdom, for instance, the training of social workers has followed social changes and professional debates, even though Kendall's definition which talks about the importance of balancing and integrating scientific research, knowledge and skills is still relevant. The last 20 years witnessed the spread of experiential learning and of the application of reflective professionalism. (Lymbery 2003) In Germany, training is guided by the goal to bring mature individuals / professionals out of training. The core option is for reflectivity, flexibility, skills and abilities that can be used in practice, giving importance to the formal development of social and emotional skills (Hamburger et al. 2008).
The Social Work university training systems of two recent EU countries - Hungary and Romania - reflect too, this diversity. In Hungary graduates are to be trained for professional and responsible practice, based on complex knowledge, developed relationship skills, high level of self-knowledge. Students spend considerable time on the field, are involved in volunteer work, participate in practical work of personal development and development of professional skills (Budai 2006). In Romania specialized practice is included in the training curriculum, however, the personal development or the development of the professional skills is realized (if at all) at the individual / informal initiative of the institutions or some teachers. (Marc, C., & Bacter, C. 2015).
In addition, in both countries, Social Work is a new profession which started only after the systemic change of 1989, and its professional status and the related qualification requirements have not been clarified to date. This situation exists mainly in Romania, but to some extent also in Hungary. There is still no clear definition of the jobs that can be filled with a higher-level social worker diploma. The Social Work profession is not yet clearly attractive in terms of social judgment, financial benefits for professionals and moral recognition.
Taking into account the need to overcome the negative effects of such deep seeded hindering factors, our research, which is cross national comparative in its scope, aims to discuss career suitability and career satisfaction of graduates of social worker training at Hungarian and Romanian universities; to assess to what extent the young social professionals feel ready for employment; how they meet the challenges of practice and fieldwork, what difficulties they face, and what competencies they employ to help; what kind of deficit skill groups are affecting their work; how they succeed to incorporate their profession into their personal identity; and how their quality of life is influenced by job satisfaction. In addition, our goal is to gain a deeper insight into the professional development and resources of graduates. The results of the research are aimed to provide informational support to educational policy makers as well as two university staff who teach and interact with current students in the field of career guidance.
The research is based on quantitative questionnaire responses from 196 young specialists who graduated in the period 2009-2016. Data were collected in three institutions: Partium Christian University in Romania, the Hungarian University of Pécs and the Nyíregyháza Faculty of the University of Debrecen in Hungary. The main research dimensions tackled in the qualitative survey included: share of graduates employed in their profession; reasons for leaving the career; the level of satisfaction and career profile; reconciliation of work and family life; difficulties and resources in working with clients; theoretical and practical knowledge and skills missing from university training. In addition to the quantitative questionnaire survey, we used qualitative methods such as life narratives of graduates, focus groups and interviews, to reveal the internal motivations and operational peculiarities of the former students, which have characterized their post-university professional decisions. Thus, we can understand the role of psycho-social background factors in professional integration and obtain a deeper insight into the professional development, difficulties, and resources of young graduates.
According to the results of the research, young specialists in Romania have long-term problems with placement in the field for a longer time, compared to their peers in Hungary. In both countries, most professionals consider themselves to be well prepared, but there are shortcomings such as knowledge of foreign language, financial knowledge, project management, application writing, research methodology and understanding of social processes. The greatest challenge of young graduates is to find sources of funding and to design and conduct research. The interviewed professionals are least satisfied with the protection of mental health and prevention of burnout at their workplace. University education should focus more on these areas. Most professionals considered the university education they received as good, irrespective of which institution they graduated from – still the proportion of mid-range evaluations was also considerable. We have found that the relationship between perceived knowledge acquired during university education and workplace satisfaction is not significantly correlate.
Budai I. (2006): Megközelítések a szociális munkás-képzés fejlesztéséhez I. Esély, 6. szám. 62-88. Hamburger, Franz, Günther Sander & Manfred Wöbcke. "Social Work Education in Europe." October 6, 2008. Social Cohesion Initiative of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe and Related Projects. ILO-UNDP Training on Elderly Services - Ashgabat, Turkmenistan - 4-7 November 2008. IDEALS @ Illinois. Johnsson, E. and Svensson, K. (2005): Theory in social work – some reflections on understanding and explaining interventions. European Journal of Social Work, Vol. 8. Issue 4, pp. 419-434. Lymbery, M. (2003): Negotiating contradictions between competence and creativity in social work education, Journal of Social Work, vol. 3, no. 1. pp. 99-117. Marc, C., & Bacter, C. (2015). Aspects of Teaching in Undergraduate Social Work Programs, In: A. Hatos (coord.), Riding the Wave. Social Science Curriculum and Teaching in Higher Education in an Age of Crisis, Presa Universitară Clujeană; Editura Universității din Oradea, Cluj-Napoca; Oradea, 193-204
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