Rhiannon Stokes studied Applied Social Sciences at the University of York and joined Frontline’s Leadership Development programme as part of the 2015 cohort. Here Rhiannon shares her experience of applying to Frontline, the journey that led her to apply, and how she found the application process.
I was a student at York in James College from 2007-2010, studying Applied Social Sciences (Children & Young People). I chose this course as I had an interest in sociology, and thought that I might want to do social work in the future, but didn’t feel ready to study social work at 19. I loved my degree and its ‘applied’ nature, to me it felt like I was studying things that actually mattered. Wanting to make the most of my spare time at university I completed lots of voluntary work: YSIS, tea & coffee club for the elderly, youth work with York City Council, James College Christian Union and a local housing charity.
As I finished my degree I still felt I might want to go into social work but wanted more experience. I really enjoyed the housing module on my degree and as a result I applied to work as a trainee housing officer with a local housing association. I worked in housing for 5 years, in various roles both in the third and public sector, before applying for Frontline.
Whilst I really enjoyed my role in housing I reached a point in which I felt I was no longer being challenged. I found the parts of the job I loved were the social work aspects, where I was championing the needs of vulnerable clients and felt I was helping to make a difference.
As a housing professional, I had encountered cases where I felt both I and the families I was working with were let down by punitive practice, repeated changes of social worker and a lack of optimism for change. Therefore, I felt that if I was going to become a social worker I must become ‘an excellent one’ and it seemed to me that both I and the Frontline programme had similarly high views of the kind of professional a social worker should be.
I found the application process an enjoyable challenge. I didn’t apply for any graduate schemes on finishing my degree so the process was new to me and I certainly hadn’t practiced things such as online reasoning tests before. The video interview was probably my scariest moment as I really had no idea what was expected, but I was just honest about why I wanted to become a social worker and what drives me. I treated the assessment centre in the same way. Whilst I prepped at home for some of the questions I might be asked I just answered questions honestly and trusted my instincts through the activities rather than thinking about ‘what they might be looking for.’
My first year on the Frontline programme has undoubtedly met my expectations in terms of it being a challenge! As a children’s social worker you are thinking about the needs of a child, being their champion, sometimes the only person that really has them in mind. I have really enjoyed being able to be this person for a child but also working with their carers to better enable them to do this.
The job of a social worker is challenging every day and it’s hugely stimulating in that sense, making you think carefully about what’s best for the family and reflecting on why you think that. I love its multi-disciplinary nature in being psychological, sociological, legal, creative, involving skills in writing, presenting, and most importantly working with people. It has certainly been intense but also an excellent way to train as I have been writing in my academic work about live cases and applying academic theories to case analysis in practice. I would encourage anyone who wants a challenge and to make a real difference with people to apply and become part of a really exciting profession which I know York has championed for many years.
Frontline is on campus on 8, 9 and 15 November. For more information on these events, please see Careers Gateway.
Frontline is recruiting 370 participants for its Leadership Development Programme. Want to make real change for children and families? Find out more about a career in social work and start your application by visiting the Frontline website. Applications close 20 November.