We sat down with final year Social Work student Sharon Wilkins, who has taken advantage of both the Graduate+ award, and everything it has to offer, both within BCU & in her personal life too!
Hi Sharon, it’s great getting to chat with you today! What first got you interested in the Graduate+ award?
“I originally thought this would be a really interesting opportunity by learning to explore professional opportunities throughout my degree. Graduate+ would give me wider scope in terms of my employability. Not only that, but also in terms of getting involved, learning to explore, discover, and excel the award framework would give me a perfect opportunity. I looked at what the award entailed and realised this could potentially open up career pathways. At the end of my first year on the Social work degree I was recognised as a high achiever.”
How many of the award levels have you so far completed & when did you achieve these?
“I have completed the bronze, Silver, gold and Platinum awards. I didn’t realise when I started my degree there was a platinum. However when I completed my gold it was nice of the Graduate+ team to unlock the platinum award for me. I completed them all by the end of my 2nd year, even though there was an opportunity to complete them over my 3 year degree period. It was agreed by the graduate team that I had completed enough evidence in the workforce to evidence the awards earlier.”
You told us a little bit about your outside experiences working with young people in the care system – can you tell us a little more about that?
“I was able to excel in the social care work force. I went from strength to strength and worked my way up into management. Not only that, but I then became a part of a team that was able to interview prospective residential child workers to ensure stability and the right type of employees within the workforce. Moreover, I have been working within fostering, mental health and hospital social work. Helping children with trauma and working with my own resilience through regular meditation. Furthermore, I was offered a regional managers job at the end of my 2nd year but this would have meant I would have had to take a year out of my degree in 3rd year.”
Out of all the online resources / programmes we offer – which one was your favourite & why?
“I personally liked the potential.ly resource - as it provided a detailed picture of my personality that was then provided in a useful report. It looked at my own identity and strength based indicators which helped highlight strengths, weaknesses and personality traits in terms of my developmental profile. Rosetta Stone is good too, I had the opportunity to learn new languages which would be beneficial when working with difference and in terms of my future social work practice.”
What would you say to a new 1st year student who is interested in starting their Graduate+ award, & how has this impacted you?
“Nothing ventured nothing gained you’ve got nothing to lose, once you have achieved the award you well feel a sense of pride. You have 3 years to complete it so pace your way through. It has impacted me in a positive way as it has helped me stand out from the crowd in terms of employability. Through each award level everything I did was evidence based through University and Work. It looks great on your CV plus you have the certificates as proof, and of course, the 4 lovely awards.”
You told us that completing your Grad+ award has assisted you when collaborating with others outside of university – can you tell us more?
“I wanted to work with people who achieve a shared goal. I wanted to ensure that the work force I was putting together was bespoke. I was able to find quality staff that had empathetic qualities who could put themselves in the children’s frame of reference. I wanted to challenge bad practice and be part of the solution and not the problem. I was able to represent a strong team of staff to ensure continuity with young people and the team.”
What was your favourite memory in your Grad+ “journey”? Perhaps you attended our workshops or learnt a new skill?
“When I reached my platinum award and I had some excellent feedback off the graduate team on my performance. It really touched my heart and I felt so proud on each step of the journey, I learnt to adapt, excel and be critically reflective. I enjoyed the structure set out in the STAR technique as this allowed me to evidence and sum up everything I did in a structured way. I learnt more about myself as a person. I’ve learnt to be more empathetic when understanding someone’s personal standpoint. I’ve learnt the importance of being non-judgemental.”
Finally, what does the future have in store for Sharon, what are your next steps after graduation?
“To be a frontline child protection social worker but to never use my power as a social worker to make others feel powerless, but to become an amazing social worker, one that works towards emancipatory practice that’s seeks to free and liberate children from oppression. “If you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the Problem” - as once so famously quoted by Neil Thompson.”
Wow, what an inspiration Sharon is – I’m sure you’ll all agree, she’s taken the new skills she’s gained throughout her Graduate+ journey and is now using these in her profession as a social worker! We’re more than just an award framework, with the online resources & key skills you’ll gain, this really will help you stand out from the crowd for your future, and so much more.
If you’re interested in speaking about your Graduate+ journey you can contact our team at email@example.com