Recruiting social workers: ​“If I can make a difference, then why not?”

10th June 2015
Each year Frontline run a number of rigorous assessment centres that are designed to select the best possible candidates to join our graduate programme. Victor Taiwo, 24, is currently completing a masters degree at Southbank University and is one of the young adults with care-experience who supports us to select the most suitable people.

Today Victor tells us about his experience of social work, his learnings from the Frontline assessment process and his future career plans.

My experience of social workers
“I had about six different social workers growing up. The majority were ok, although I did have one or two who treated it like it was just a job. The quality that sticks out in the good social workers is ‘commitment’. If I needed extra help, would they be there?

One big change I wanted to see in some social workers was for them not to get caught up in process. They might have had a manager pushing them to follow the book, but social workers should actually sit down and review a case to ensure the child is always the main focus. One of my social workers was more focused on how ‘you need to leave care by a certain age’ or asking me to move near to the time of my exams. The child-focused approach would be to review the situation individually to enable the best decision to be made for me and my future.

Leaving care and giving something back
“There was definitely a drop off leaving care, an ‘okay, bye now’ feel to it. I felt like they dropped me in the deep end a bit – especially as I’d developed a good relationship with my foster parent. She’s was like a mum to me – she really did care. It wasn’t a job – she actually treated me like family and I still maintain the relationship to this day.

“I always knew I wanted to get involved in the care system at some point, to try and change processes. So when I was told by a university social worker about the opportunity to be involved at Frontline’s assessment centre, I just thought ‘yeah, if I can make a difference then why not.’ I’m also a member of London Fostering Network – to make a change and to help improve the services available to children in care. I know I want to do fostering at some point.” 

Helping Frontline select candidates
“I was working in HR while at university for almost two years and you come across different people being interviewed for jobs. But with Frontline you’re seeing passion – and that’s not something you can lie about. For me, the candidates who stood out showed both their passion and their ability to interact well with young people. You hear about people’s personal experiences – some have been in care – and why they want to become social workers. Just to see people who were really keen to make a change – that was amazing.

Professional development through Frontline
“The assessment centres were useful for improving my interview skills. They really helped me assess the detail – specifically, in this case, the slightest thing in a person which showed the passion about why they wanted to be a social worker. It’s different from other jobs where you’re assessing if someone is qualified to do that job. Here you’re assessing someone to see if they are driven enough to actually be capable of becoming a good social worker.

Future career plans
“Looking ahead I’m really keen to work in project management, specifically in construction because I’m really interested in infrastructure and property development. I’m currently finishing my Business Management BSc. My first experience of project management was on a university placement year where I was working for an HR firm. I noticed there were kids who were looking for jobs when they should really have been in school. So I contacted the apprenticeship service and got them back into education. They pretty much gave me that entire project to handle and from then I just knew I wanted to work on projects.

“Victor was asking many questions about pretty much everything. You can tell he is very interested in what was going on and I’m sure he will make a good manager.”
– Scott McLean, Site Manager at Berkley’s

“Through a chance meeting while working with Frontline I managed to secure two days of work experience at the Berkley Group. That was my first time on a construction site and the experience and the knowledge I gained over the two days was invaluable. They didn’t hold back, they just showed me the real construction experience that was so different from what you might read in a book. I’ve now secured a position at Thames Water on the Graduate Leadership Programme (Project Management) and I’m very excited about my future career prospects.”

Interview by Joe Jervis