A social worker trainee may be involved in a number of different tasks depending on how much experience he or she has had. The nature of the trainee's job and the skills that are being learned will also differ depending on what type of social work the trainee is involved in. Social workers commonly work with adults, children, and families in crisis or adults suffering from mental health issues, substance abuse problems or those coping with serious injuries or illnesses.
No matter what area of social work a social worker trainee is going into, one of the main responsibilities of a person with this job is to learn more about the field. Trainees must continue to study the theory learned in school and apply this theory to work in the real world. By working with experienced social workers, trainees can develop the skills they need to move into the field on their own.
For a time, a social worker trainee may shadow an experienced social worker. Following a mentor allows a trainee to see issues and crises that arise in the work are managed. Though trainees have had a great deal of education in social work before they are teamed up with mentors, understanding theory and seeing it in action are two different things.
Once a social worker trainee has observed an experienced social worker for a time, the trainee can start to take on cases. For the first cases, a mentor will shadow the trainee in order to step in and offer support if it is needed. The trainee will be able to start making decisions and evaluating situations but will need to consult with an experienced social worker to make sure that mistakes aren't being made.
After getting some hands on experience, a social worker trainee will be able to start taking on cases with less supervision. The trainee still has a mentor to consult with and may need to check in with this experienced professional before making decisions but the trainee, but may be able to take cases alone. This part of the social worker's training occurs towards the end of the training period and lasts until the social worker trainee has had enough experience to become fully licensed.
Social workers are highly trained in their areas of expertise. A social worker trainee must always have experience in the type of social work that he or she person hopes to do professionally. Trainees who intend to work with children and families will train under social workers who are already in this line of work, while those who wish to work with people who are recovering from illness or injury will take on these types of cases under the guidance of their mentors.