The US government is working to fill a void left by the retirement of social workers with a new initiative to boost their numbers.
The National Center for Social Work Education and Research (NCSWER), a $1.2bn (£930m) agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services, is hoping to create a new workforce of social work graduates.
In a statement, NCSWERS said it was working with federal agencies to create 10,000 new social workers by 2020.
These are the people who will work with people with disabilities, those with mental health challenges, those who have substance use disorders, and people with autism, it said.
It said the new graduates would be “well-trained and able to work in a variety of settings, including prisons, shelters, health clinics, schools, and businesses”.
“We are very excited about this initiative and are committed to working collaboratively with our partners and stakeholders to develop a more robust workforce of highly skilled and motivated social workers,” said NCSYER Director Nancy Givens in a statement.
“We look forward to the partnership with the federal government, our stakeholders and the broader public in achieving this vision.”
The US government has long sought to boost its social work workforce by offering training to students, but there is little evidence that the work has been effective.
The Obama administration, for example, stopped teaching social workers in its jails in 2013, despite promising to increase the number of social worker graduates it offered.
Social workers are increasingly viewed as the backbone of mental health care and social work, and they are also highly regarded in some states for their training.
More: The US is one of the few developed nations with no social workers for elderly people and some argue the lack of a workforce in the country is the primary reason for the high suicide rates in the US.
The agency has been lobbying to add more social workers to the workforce.
The Department of Education and Health and Welfare, which administers the Social Work Program, has long supported a recruitment effort to fill the ranks of social welfare workers.
But its latest attempt to fill this role has been delayed, partly because the federal department has not yet approved funding for this effort.
The department, however, said in a news release on Monday that the new initiative would help fill a “critical gap” in the social work field, adding that it would “provide the training needed to provide a robust, effective, and culturally competent workforce”.
“There are a number of skills, including leadership, leadership communication, and leadership of the workforce that are not available through current training programs,” it said, adding the program would “help train more than 5,000 social workers each year”.
The department has long promoted the idea that social workers should be involved in a range of areas, including community development, family and community health, health care, and social assistance.
However, many of the training programs in the past have focused on particular areas, such as social workers who work with drug addicts, homeless, and veterans.
Some social workers argue the social workers’ roles are being overshadowed by more traditional roles in society.
“I think that social work is very underrepresented in the field of social policy,” said Rebecca Akins, a social worker who has taught at the University of Colorado Denver.
“There is a disconnect between social work and social services in our society.”
Akins said it would be impossible to fully train social workers because there are so many other social workers involved in many other areas.
“You can’t just turn around and train all social workers.
You have to have them all in one group and have them work in different fields,” she said.”
The problem is we don’t have the manpower.”
The NCSNER said it had already begun to recruit people with the skills needed to fill social worker vacancies.
“Nationally, we have more than 12,000 trained social workers and more than 4,000 job candidates who are actively applying to these positions,” said Sarah Smith, a spokeswoman for the agency.
“It’s a significant number of people and the people we are recruiting are well-trained, experienced, and qualified to fill these positions.”
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