Joint thematic workshop - Social jobs

'Social work - what do young people think of it?' This was the topic of the 2016 thematic workshop in Ortenburg. Here you can read the report from Group Leader, Hazel Bailey, on what pupils from both countries discussed and what they discovered. They worked in mixed language groups so that they could all extend their language skills as well as delve further into the culture of the other country.

What are social jobs?

First of all the pupils worked in groups to put together a list of professions which could be placed under the umbrella term of 'social work'; after that we found out who knew someone who worked in any of these professions - in case any of these acquaintances might be prepared to offer their services in the coming week for an interview for the Workshop.

... and what skills do we need to bring?

Then the groups considered which characteristics are needed or are helpful to carry out any of these professions. The results were posted on the board in German after which the matching English words were dealt out so that they could be posted next to their partner word. After this, every group thought about which five characteristics were the most important for doing social work. These were: communicative skills, sensitivity, patience, reliability, and capacity for team work.

Preparing an interview

In order to find out what various social workers think about their jobs, the pupils worked together in groups to devise a questionnaire. (…) After all questions were put together in a joint questionnaire, each pair was informed with whom they were to carry out their interview. The pupils were to organise their own dates and times for the interviews and were reminded that the Brits were to carry out the interviews while the German pupils would help by noting the answers. Amongst others, the following professional groups were represented: teachers, nursery school teachers, school secretaries, carers of various kinds, child minders, nurses.

What can we learn first-hand about social work?

It was interesting to hear what the interviewees liked the most about their jobs and what was the most challenging/difficult thing about their professions. As one might expect, job satisfaction played a significant role for the interviewees. (...) The most important characteristics mentioned were to have strong nerves, patience, sensitivity, perseverance, love, and a sense of duty. Interestingly, communicative skills were not mentioned by the majority of interviewees although it was already apparent during the first session that the pupils thought this was the most important characteristic of all. Nevertheless, the pupils' list of the most desirable characteristics for a social profession was comparable to that of the interviewees.

Looking back and ahead: What does this mean for us?

The majority of pupils found working on the various tasks of the Thematic Workshop both interesting and informative. The project was a valuable opportunity for collaborative work between the German and the British pupils and a few pupils gained in linguistic and personal confidence, which is an invaluable outcome. In some cases the interviews led to further dialogue and discussions during which the pupils and the interviewees had to think things over together. The interviews allowed the pupils to hear first-hand what professionals think of their jobs in social work and to get an insight into the advantages, disadvantages and possible problems of various social jobs. For adolescents who are having to start thinking about the direction in which their professional lives might lie, the Thematic Workshop was a valuable experience.