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IT Sligo: Building resilient leaders in the social care sector and beyond

We profile a number of students who have benefited from accessible and flexible learning paths to develop into future leaders in the social care sector and beyond

Professionals working in the social care sector have been feeling the pressure long before this point. Now it is essential those managers build resilience to become effective leaders, tasked with delivering critical social care services which will experience increased demand, post-pandemic.

Across the professions there has been a significant shift in work practices to ensure services remain operational for the most vulnerable in our society. Those in managerial and leadership roles have adapted to the crisis, but long-term this level of demand requires significant support along with toolkits for managing now and into the future.

It is hard to put a value on investing in further education. Naturally, there is a stated tuition fee, however students invest significant time and effort sacrificing plenty along the way and often balancing work, life or family commitments, in the pursuit of further qualifications. The value to employers is equally immeasurable. Employers encourage and support staff in their professional development, often nurturing the potential of staff who will lead, manage and often transform a service. Many graduates talk about the academic learning, which was expected, but most talk about the unexpected outcomes such as confidence, a sense of achievement and a belief in an ability to progress and build a career in their chosen path.

Graduates of IT Sligo’s suite of Social Sciences Master’s programmes build practical skills through the learning model employed at the Institute. Take for example the CORU accredited Master’s in Social Work, where students complete two 14-week placements putting the theoretical skills into practice in real settings, supported but also accountable for their work. In Social Care and Social Justice and Leadership and Advocacy in Early Years, the blended learning approach gives students the flexibility to continue working but also offers block residentials on-campus to build peer-learning and develop practical skills through workshops.

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The suite of Masters covers the development of skills, such as management, legal frameworks, transformation, policy, advocacy and develops professionals who are adaptable, can manage change and influence people, all grounded in up-to-date thinking on leadership. Such skills are valuable assets across all industry sectors.

Here we profile a number of current students and past graduates who have benefited from the accessible and flexible learning paths and developed into the future leaders in the social care sector and beyond.

The course has really given me a whole new career and whilst it was tough, I am now working in a profession where I can make a positive contribution to society. I was drawn to Social Work, as I really wanted to help empower families and communities to be more in control of their own life experiences. The course is CORU approved meaning I graduated with an internationally recognized qualification and I am eligible to apply to register as a professionally qualified social worker with CORU.

In my professional life, since commencing the course I have progressed to a managerial role. The course is really helping build my knowledge but also building confidence in my ability to make positive contributions to my workplace. On a personal level, as the first Irish Traveller in the Northwest to achieve a formal Masters qualification, the course has given me a platform to contribute to and shape the issues that impact anyone in society from an ethnic minority.

Once I began working in the sector, I knew I wanted to go further with my studies. I knew a Master’s would benefit my chances of progressing in my career. I chose to complete this course due to its flexibility and accessibility when working full time. Another motivating factor for choosing this course was that I had seen many other graduates before me secure successful positions in the sector. The Early Years Sector is such a fast-paced environment and has changed a lot. It was important for me to upskill and ensure I had access to the most up to date, relevant information.

I had a genuine interest in Leadership and modules on the course like Corporate Governance, Financial Management and Digital Transformation really appealed to me.

It has been 25 years since I have had to think academically and it has been challenging, but also rewarding in terms of getting my brain fit again.

In my role as a Speech and Language Therapist, the topics of advocacy, activism and encouraging social participation were very relevant. The blended delivery offers online lectures and every semester we have one residential week. As well as the scope and experience of the lecturers from a variety of backgrounds in social care, human rights, law, social policy and social transformation, the students attending also bring their own wealth of experience. With small class sizes, the discussions are very interesting.

When IT Sligo launched the MA in Social Work, it really appealed to me. I have a strong desire to work with the most vulnerable in our society and make a meaningful contribution. The Social Work profession is adopting new ways of working and the new Social Work framework puts emphasis on building a safety network of trusted support, equally valid and reliable, working towards keeping families together. Modules like ‘Professional Ethics in Social Work Practice’ and ‘Social Work Skills and Competencies’ prepared me for working with those in vulnerable situations. The teaching was very practical in nature, ensuring I was ready to partake in meaningful work placements.

The course is delivered online, the small group size means there is strong interaction between lecturers and other participants.

The course content offers a broad spectrum of learning across all areas of management and leadership, allowing me to highlight my own skills and progress in my chosen career path.

My main motivation for studying was continual professional development. I felt that I needed to upskill and attain new knowledge which could support me in my role as an early years specialist. I believe that my new role as EU Project Officer was a direct result of my MA achievement with IT Sligo. This role involves a lot of research and academic writing and I feel that this course further developed those skills while also broadening my knowledge and enhancing my confidence.

Applications are now open for September 2021 start.

For more information, visit itsligo.ie/masters
Email: admissions@itsligo.ie 
Facebook: /itsligo