Why aren’t more social work students joining the AASW?

older graduate image This year there are approximately 14,500 students enrolled in social work across Australia; a staggering number! (the entire membership of the AASW is only 10,000).

In 2017 we can expect around 1,200 graduates from qualifying masters programs, and 1,700 from bachelors programs.

Which universities are doing the heavy lifting? Actual figures from 2014 indicated that five universities had enrolments of more than 500 students. These were the University of South Australia with 778, Charles Sturt with 676, Western Sydney University with 550, Latrobe with 546, and Deakin with 528.

The AASW keeps its student membership numbers secret (why?). Nevertheless, I can be confident in guessing that AASW student membership is a tiny proportion of 14,500.

When I talk with students about this, a few themes emerge,

  • Many students are in abject poverty and the membership fee is beyond their means
  •  some students see the AASW requirements around recognition of prior learning, and  placement hours and attendance as punitive and irrational
  • Exposure to AASW marketing is on campus is patchy or limited

I would add to this by saying that in my estimate, only around 50% of social work academics are members of the AASW.

Boosting student membership is an issue of real urgency. The future health of the social work profession is in the hands of the next generation.

We must have,

  • a $10 membership for students
  • free mentoring for students and new graduates
  • a memorandum of understanding between Heads of Schools of Social Work and the AASW that guarantees regular access to students for marketing purposes
  • a placement regime that strikes a sensible balance between outcomes and hours
  • an AASW student club on every campus
  • a national student advisory body

 

 

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6 Responses to Why aren’t more social work students joining the AASW?

  1. Rachael says:

    Hi Vittorio,

    As a student, I couldn’t agree more. I am a member of AASW and when speaking to other students they normally say they have not joined due to their finances.
    I myself will continue to be an AASW member because I am looking at the bigger picture and know that it will be of great benefit.

    My AASW student membership benefits currently are receiving the quarterly academic journal and being able to state that I am a member on my resume. Some students have questioned me on this as even being a benefit and others have stated that they would join only if and when they felt it was a necessity.

    There are some great AASW accredited courses/events/seminars that I have access to however the ones of interest to me are the ones you have to pay for and even at the discounted student rate they are far too expensive.

    From my experience, there is a need for more benefits and reasons why a student should join the AASW.

  2. Mark Wilder says:

    Thank you for addressing and teasing-out some of the issues on this MrV. Indeed why would students join the Association when there is such limited value for money. We owe it to students to welcome, support and to informally mentor them as was done for many of us as students. I am so pleased to see you commit to this important matter as part of your current campaign pledge.

  3. Paul Henderson says:

    I would agree with Rachael, membership to the AASW is way to expensive, (even $55) most students can simply not afford to spare that type of money living a hand-to-mouth existence from week to week. Personally, I have only been able as a mature-aged social work student able to afford it from my Austudy payment that I get at the commencement of each new semester, without that I most certainly would not be able to afford membership to the AASW. Also, the cost of courses that are advertised through the AASW are also way to expensive for students (even with the student discount). In three years of membership I have attended just one function that I got to network with other future social workers. To use a cliche, current students are the future of the AASW and they should in my opinion at most pay no more than $20 per year during their time at university. Those four years should be used by the AASW to help nurture future social workers and help them realise that further education, networking, lobbying, industry news, international studies, and NDIS updates relevant to social work practices throughout Australia should be ingrained into the minds of current social work students into their working lives after graduation. The AASW is simply not known well enough at the grass-roots, on university campus’s. There needs to be much greater efforts by AASW management to spread the word of the association. Currently, they are poorly serving new students to the benefits of being part of the AASW. This change has to come from the “top down” to help alleviate this problem of many social work students not knowing about the AASW and what purpose it serves to its members.

  4. Ali says:

    Thank you for acknowledging the financial burden of the Social Work degree, and also for raising the issue of the ‘punitive and irrational’ RPL and placement requirements for students. I have yet to join the AASW and am unsure if I will do so upon completion of my degree.
    I am currently studying a MSW (Qualifying) as an external student having an undergraduate degree in nursing with close to 20 years of work experience in health, disability and community organisations. I am really struggling to see the value of 1000 hours of placement at a Masters level where the majority of students have worked in or are currently working in human services fields. To say nothing of the financial hardship and family stress that it causes students.
    The other thing is that keeping placement at 1000 hours means that only the most privileged students can meet the requirements. You need to be financially secure, healthy and with a solid support network in order to commit to months and months of unpaid work. For a profession that is supposedly about equity and social justice, I don’t think that this is acceptable.

    • Ben says:

      Thanks for this, I completely agree. It seems absolutely ludicrous to me that a student with 20 years nursing experience should still be required to complete a full 1000 hours of placement. Baffling. I think students would benefit much more from smaller ‘taster’ placements conducted throughout the degree, coupled with more practical course content that could be integrated throughout. Not all placements are created equal either. A 500 hour placement in a structured learning environment with adequate supervision, mentoring, varied learning experiences and at least a small case load component would be/is rewarding. However, that same 500 hours in an unstructured community placement with limited learning opportunities and external supervision is far too long. I’m doing a placement like this at the moment, and although I love the work and have learned a lot from my time at the organisation, I could’ve easily had the same quality of experience in 200 or 250 hours. I feel like now with 100 hours left to go I’m just treading water, bored and resenting being used as free labour in a position that wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the ‘resource’ that is social work placement students. I could have completed say 200 hours in two different organisations and had a far richer experience than 500 in one.

  5. Manish Poudel says:

    Hi,
    I am in a situation where I should agree or disagree with the AASW membership or skill assessment. I am an International student graduated from Master of Social Work degree 2 years ago and completely unemployed, barred from AASW skill assessment requirements and both financially and mental stress.

    The reason I am explaining about disagreeing with AASW membership and skill assessment is due to their high requirements of membership for eligibility of AASW. After completing my degree, I searched for many jobs around Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and many in regional places of Australia. Waiting for almost 6 months to get a job reply with unsuccessful due to their requirements for AASW membership eligibility.
    Maybe this sounds not hard for getting a membership but on my condition, I am an overseas student requires English Language test (i.e. IELTS band score 7 each). It is my thirteen attempts of giving IELTS test from Brisbane and got three components above 7 scores except Writing stuck with 6.5 scores.

    I also noticed that AASW only accept IELTS English test which I felt unfair for overseas students as many other assessing bodies are accepting other language tests such as PTE, TOEFL etc. and it has been almost more than two years, AASW English Language Policy has been same till date. I am on a working visa but not able to get some experience or a job in my own field of study made me frustrated, emotionally hurt, financially broke giving the test many times and at the end of my visa.

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