Frontline, founded by Josh McAlister in 2010, recruits and trains individuals to be leaders in the social work sphere. They also have a graduate scheme which is both challenging, yet extremely rewarding. Participants work as frontline children’s social workers in Greater London and the South East, North West, North East, and West Midlands, and, ‘undertake child protection work’, with the unified goal of changing the lives of the children they work with. Here, I speak to Katherine Hennessy, Frontline’s recruitment director, to find out more:
Katherine, could you tell us a little bit more about your position within Frontline and how you got started in this line of work?
I’m the Recruitment Director at Frontline, [so]I’m responsible for the department who source and hire graduates and career changers to join the Frontline programme. I started my career with Teach First as a Humanities teacher in South London before moving into graduate recruitment where I’ve worked in a number of different roles. In 2013, I heard about a Teach First Ambassador, Josh MacAlister, setting up Frontline, [aiming]to make a positive impact on the lives of vulnerable young people and their families beyond the classroom. I was inspired and ready for a change. I joined the charity as the fourth employee and quickly found a small team to work with me to set up the recruitment department.
What makes Frontline unique?
Frontline provides a new exciting route into one of Britain’s toughest and most noble jobs, transforming the lives of the most vulnerable people in society. Our recruits are part of a movement to instigate change within society and our fellowship initiative supports our wider network of social workers and individuals who have done our programme. The training is paid and on-the-job; participants start working with vulnerable children and families from day one under the management and support of a really experienced child protection social worker; and participants gain a Masters qualification. It’s a training route for people who are hungry for a challenge, keen to develop leadership skills and who are interested in developing their people skills. You’ll work with vulnerable young people and their families, the police, the courts and a whole host of professionals to make an impact.
How would you recommend becoming involved in Frontline?
There are some great opportunities to engage with Frontline to find out more about becoming a child protection social worker and the charity. Firstly, we offer an insight day where you can learn more about:
how to make a difference in society with Frontline; develop employability skills; and, hear from leaders in social work. We also have a few internship positions where individuals can make a valuable contribution to the work of our head office team (three weeks in the summer) and we rely on a team of student brand managers who we train and develop as our voice within universities (applications open in February).
Do frontline look for graduates with particular degrees, such as Psychology or do you recruit graduates from a wide range of disciplines?
Frontline accept graduates from any degree (apart from social work where the qualification has already been gained). On the course, participants learn about law, ethics, health, psychology and many other areas of knowledge which social workers rely on in their day-to-day job.
Frontline offers a 2 year training programme that leads to a masters, could you tell us a little more about this?
Frontline participants begin the programme with the Summer Institute, an intensive five-week residential programme where they are taught the knowledge and skills of good social work by leading academics. Following this they begin their placements in local authority Children’s Services Departments which will be in one of Frontline’s four regions (London and the South East, West Midlands, North East, North West) where they form a unit with three other participants and are supervised by a highly skilled Consultant Social Worker. In the unit participants work directly with vulnerable children and families while also working towards a Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work. By the end of the first year they will have undertaken 200 days of ‘on-the-job’ training and 46 full taught days of study. While their main focus will be on child protection social work, they also complete a contrasting learning placement, which could see them spend 30 days working in a domestic violence, adult mental health, substance misuse or learning disabilities team.
In year 2 participants will be qualified social workers. They will continue to work in their local authority’s Children’s Services Department and will have the opportunity to undertake study to gain a Masters qualification alongside this, which is an excellent opportunity to develop their research skills. In addition, all participants receive coaching from an experience coached to help them realise their full potential.
Frontline is one of the Top 100 graduate employers, and has been for the last 3 years running. How has Frontline maintained this prestigious title?
Frontline’s aim is purposeful and radical and it has attracted a lot of media over the last few years. We’ve attracted some great people to the programme and we rely on the power of word of mouth to spread our messages throughout universities in England. Every day we hear people telling us, “ my friend’s brother is doing this”, “my mum told me about this”, “I think my friend would be perfect” and this enthusiasm is important as we grow the Frontline network.