We recently unveiled the new direction for the Candidacy program at the College’s 2017 Fall Conference.

Here’s a look at the future of the Candidacy program & the steps we’ve taken to redevelop this program: 

Social work has three distinct sectors: education, regulation, and practice. Candidacy is best situated to merge the three sectors together and strengthen social work profession. As opposed to other regulatory requirements (exams, competency profiles etc), a revised and improved Candidacy program supports social work as a complex, nuanced, and contextual practice.

The social work profession struggles to hold a clear vision of its professional identity. There is a complex tension between social work values, ethics and standards and the demands and structures of the work place.

On one side, there is a pull towards the profession’s principles and values which are embedded in social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. On the other side, social workers are often pulled towards a maintenance of the status quo by asserting social control. This environment creates a need for social workers in Nova Scotia to support one another to negotiate this tension through the Candidacy program.

Tensions in social work is prevalent as the neo-liberal paradigm has taken hold. The main tool that the neo-liberal paradigm has used within social service systems has been managerialism.

Social workers face high caseloads, strict deadlines, public scrutiny, lack of resources, and an inability to influence decisions or alter undesirable situations. Managerialism is used to hold social services accountable to their bottom line, rather than the social needs of the people these systems serve. This lead to the development of competency profiles which focus on defined behaviours and skills over the values based-critical thinking needed for effective social work practice.

Managerialism has the impacted many areas of social work practice in particular;

  • The ability of social workers to uphold ethical practices,
  • An erosion or confusion of the professional social work identity,
  • Stress and burnout through vicarious trauma.

The future candidacy program will counter and resist the negative effects of managerialism.

Candidates will have a strategic, supportive and educational professional development experience rooted in principles of adult learning. Candidates will be linked with experienced social workers (mentors) and will be provided with educational and supportive mentorship.

The future Candidacy program will:

  • Integrate knowledge, apply skill, and actions ethics in the Candidates first years of practice.
  • Support Candidates as they develop a professional identity, grapple with ethical issues, explore professional concerns related to their practice experience.
  • Integrate theory and practice, develop self-awareness, and refine a unique practice framework that builds resiliency.

In the summer of 2016, the College hired two summer students to study and assess RSW and Candidates local and professionally-based perceptions of Candidacy.

Themes were established and relevant recommendations were developed including:

  1. Communication: Increase communication with members, largely through online methods. Communicate the value of life-long learning and the relevance of the CASW Code of Ethics and the College’s Standards of Practice to the Candidacy program. Increase Candidacy communication with social work students across Nova Scotia.
  2. Program Structure: Create a detailed and comprehensive Candidacy guide for both supervisors and candidates to address concerns relating to the program content and design. This guide should offer points for discussion in supervision sessions (i.e. reflective questions for consideration in ethical practice), suggestions for supervisors, and detail mentor guidelines.
  3. Lifelong Learning: Members suggested the creation of a Candidacy Committee to guide and re-develop the candidacy program according to member’s needs.

See here for the Executive Summary of this work

We built a committee that reflected the intersecting identities of Nova Scotia’s social work community. This committee:

  1. Explored the relationship between social work education and regulation. Examined the dialogue around competency-based social work. Identified the barriers of AIT and labour mobility.
  2. Developed concept maps that closely examined program decisions and content to clarify the rationale and intention of underlying decisions.
  3. Developed learning objectives centered around Candidacy’s goal. They used these objectives to craft activities, resources and content.

The Candidacy Committee built a framework with the guiding principles for Candidates, Mentors and the program as a whole.

The frameworks states;

  1. Candidacy is grounded in the values, ethics and principles of the social work profession.
  2. Candidacy ensures that all RSWs in Nova Scotia have the knowledge and skill to practice competent ethical social work to protect the public.
  3. Candidacy provides mentorship in a supportive environment to explore complex ethical issues and to build a commitment to lifelong learning.
  4. Candidacy recognizes the varied strengths and needs of each candidate and supports multiple paths to reach the learning objectives.
  5. Candidacy builds an understanding of the professional social work identity and the complexity of social work practice.
  6. Candidacy advances the uniqueness of the social work voice and the role it plays in broader systemic change and social justice.
  7. Candidacy is meant to be available to all practicing social workers in a regular, consistent and structured fashion.

The committee set broad objectives with resource support for Candidates to set more specific objective options.

The committee recommends that the overall learning objectives for the program should be that Candidates can:

  • Demonstrate the understanding and application of each of the NSCSW Standards of Practice 2017, and the Canadian Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics as amended for the NSCSW, 2008
  • Integrate the content and spirit of both documents into their day to day social work.

See the proposed framework here

The committee will recommend these core changes to the program:

  1. Regardless of their level of degree, Candidates are required to complete 2500 practice hours. Candidates can count all paid experience that falls with the social worker scope of practice. In addition, 500 of those hours can be in a volunteer role. Finally, all Candidates must normally complete the 2500 hours within a 5-year period.
  2. The term Supervisor is now Mentor to better reflect the guiding principles. The Mentor should have at least two years of full time experience as a professional social worker acceptable by the Board of Examiners and be Registered as a: Registered Social Worker, Registered Social Worker (Associate), Registered Social Worker (Retired)
  3. Learning objectives in each learning agreement should promote overall professional development related to social work values, knowledge, and skills across contexts.There will be Appendices for support on writing clear achievable learning objectives, with activities and resources to support these objectives.
    (See an example of the Appendix here).

    Mentors and Candidates will be responsible for 2 reports to the NSCSW.

Questions? Contact Alec Stratford at alec.stratford@nscsw.org.