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Finding Quality Field Placement is a Growing Challenge

Associate Clinical Professor of Social Work and Director of Field Instruction Elizabeth (Betsy) Voshel works with nearly 700 students who all need field placements as part of their curriculum within the U-M School of Social Work.

"As seasoned social workers retire, they leave a gap in the training market, which becomes a challenge when finding quality placement for our students," Voshel explains. Our graduates are getting jobs quickly and getting promoted even more quickly, but they're less likely to take on a MSW student to train because they're learning their requirements of their new job and may be overwhelmed."

Social Work graduates must be out of school for a minimum of two years before they can take on a graduate student and train them in a field placement.

"We're feeling a pinch on both ends because we haven't decreased the number of students we admit, but the quality field placement opportunities are decreasing," Voshel said.

Voshel sees this as an opportunity to put social workers in areas that may seem less traditional but very beneficial, including animal medicine, the art world and globally.

"Global social work is more supported than in the past and making tremendous strides," Voshel said. "We have well-supported programs in Hong Kong and Australia, which have been developed with a strong models based on university partnerships. We're also developing a new program in Chile, which gives students additional choices particularly those who speak fluent Spanish."

Closer to home, Voshel has developed an innovative field placement with the Wayne County Medical Examiner's office in collaboration with the University of Michigan Health System (Social Work and Department of Pathology).

"We found that there was very little human interaction or psychosocial support for those who might need to come in and identify the body of a loved one, this placement will also provide amazing additional services to medical examiners at WCMEO and the families they serve," Voshel said.

Executive Director of Family Service Agency of Mid-Michigan Charles Tommasulo has seen a dramatic change in the field of social work during his years as a field instructor.

"We're all taking on more," Tommasulo explained. "Students have more demands placed on them during their field work, and field instructors have increased their student load from managing three students in the past and now managing up to a dozen. We're working to keep up with the changes on an ongoing basis and we're preparing for new challenges every day."

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