Workforce stats show social work field is growing

Jun 6, 2012

By Paul R. Pace, News Staff

The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates the social work profession will grow by 25 percent from 2010 to 2020, a faster-than-average rate for all occupations.

“Employment is expected to increase in health and social service settings. In addition, particular attention will be given to increasing the current inadequate supply of behavioral health workers,” said Tracy Whitaker, director of the NASW Center for Workforce Studies & Social Work Practice.

This was one of several insights Whitaker provided at the National Network of Social Work Managers’ 23rd Annual Management Institute in April, held in San Diego, Calif. Whitaker was joined by Janlee Wong, executive director of the California NASW Chapter, in exchanging information about the latest transformations involving the social work workforce.

Each year, the NSWM Management Institute invites social work managers of varying levels from across the country to participate in the educational gathering. The institute focuses on leaders in human services, providing high-quality education, best practices in social work management and peer networking.

NASW was a co-sponsor of the conference, called “Human Services in Transition: Sustaining Impact in a Changed Economy.”

Whitaker told attendees that opportunities for social workers are anticipated to expand in several areas, including aging, criminal justice, services for veterans and military personnel and health. For example, as the population ages, social workers are likely to be increasingly used as care managers and care coordinators.

Whitaker explained that social work managers also will likely face challenges in coming years related to recruiting and retaining social work staff, managing a multigenerational workforce and assuring safety in the workplace for their staff.

Whitaker also identified several opportunities for social workers to promote the profession in the midst of these changes. She recommended that social workers advocate for the profession as consumers and ask for assistance from those who have social work degrees.

From the June 2012 NASW News. NASW members click here for the full story.