Entry rules eased for social service course

SINGAPORE - A diploma course for social service workers is opening its doors to people in other industries, in a move to meet the mounting shortage of trained welfare officers.

The 13-month, part-time course was previously only for people working in the social service sector.

But in April, the Social Service Institute, run by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), relaxed its entry conditions to attract people eyeing a mid-career switch.

It will also double the intake from next year, with registration for new classes held twice a year.

In announcing the changes, NCSS chief executive Ang Bee Lian said: "We need more quality manpower in the sector (with) the passion to serve. Broadening the potential student admission base... has helped to capture some of these talents."

It has attracted 10 such people from outside the sector to the pioneer class, with the rest from the social service sector itself. There are 35 enrolled altogether.

Although it is an uphill task to produce the 150 additional social workers Singapore needs each year, Ms Belinda Tan, director of the Social Service Institute, believes the new approach is a good start.

"Having worked elsewhere, these mid-career workers bring with them experiences that can help to uplift the sector," she told The Straits Times at the graduation ceremony yesterday of 19 workers from various social service agencies.

Graduates of the course, launched in 2008, tend to be administrative staff. They attend classes three times a week, from 7pm to 9pm. With the diploma, they can take on such jobs as welfare officers although a degree is required to be a social worker.

This year, the course has been tweaked to help fresh entrants ease into the sector.

A new module, for instance, requires students to do at least 40 hours of work at voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) or charities. Singapore has 1,400 registered social workers and social service practitioners, said the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

But it needs about 150 more social workers every year , the ministry added.

Former civil servant Ian Ho is hoping the course will help him move into a job to work with the needy or addicts.

Said the 40-year-old, who worked in the civil service for 19 years: "I started doing volunteer work with a VWO some years back and since then, I feel driven to do more to help the underprivileged."


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