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September 22, 2020 | Practicum update: COVID-19 impacts

There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has created a new set of rapidly evolving conditions for professional education, particularly around practicums. Around the world, the delivery of professional education has changed, is evolving, and is uncertain. We are not alone as all schools of social work are affected.

The mission of the practicum at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work is to provide MSW students with a robust field education that prepares them to occupy workforce roles and meets the competency standards set by the Canadian Association for Social Work Education (CASWE).

We would like to keep you informed and updated on the current state of affairs regarding placements as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. The deep pool of agencies we depend on provide field instruction for our students have also been impacted by the pandemic. Many agencies continue to offer virtual practicums. Some partners cannot offer. While we have been working hard to increase flexibility (number of hours, start dates, practicum in employment sites), develop new partnerships and new practicums to fill the gap, there are fewer practicums than before.
  1. Social work practicums are typically longer than similar professional degree programs. This limits students’ flexibility to delay or postpone practicums without affecting progress towards timely degree completion and the risk of additional tuition fees.

It is important to note that, given the complex challenges presented by the pandemic, students are more likely to receive a practicum that might not perfectly align with their initial selections. Although there are limits to the range of options that we can offer at this time, please be assured that all practicums have been vetted for overall educational quality and meet our mission of preparing students to enter the workforce as social workers. We are confident that you will learn transferable skills and develop meaningful connections and networks that will transcend service settings. As an example, given the rapidly changing social service landscape, it is highly likely that having proficiency in providing online service delivery will increase readiness for the workforce.

Our goal for each student is to maximize timely progress to degree and prepare for entry into the workforce. As we begin to recruit field instructors for the next cohort of students, we cannot predict whether a second wave will again impact practicums.

If future public health orders and/or university policies necessitate suspension of practicums, students will be provided with alternative virtual opportunities provided by either their practicum agencies or the Faculty.

It is vital that we are transparent about the current situation and provide you with the difficult realities to which we all have to respond.

If you have questions, suggestions or feedback, we want to hear from you.