Practice Development Unit (PDU)

As the leading provider of social work placements in the voluntary sector in Northern Ireland, Extern plays a leading role in assisting university students with finding the right placements which will help get their careers started in this challenging but rewarding sector. 

In 2018/19, our team in the PDU provided 45 placements to students from Queen’s, Belfast, and Ulster University.

Central to this is Extern’s Practice Development Unit (PDU), which provides training services, internally and externally, across Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The unit currently has five full-time staff and two part-time co-ordinators employed within the team - all of whom have been frontline social work practitioners - and the Practice Development Manager is responsible for co-ordinating and delivering all mandatory staff training, as well as advising on policy and practice.

Internally, in Extern Northern Ireland, the Practice Development Team co-ordinate and deliver all mandatory staff training, while the HR Learning and Development Training is co-ordinated and delivered on an all-Ireland basis.

Specialist training

Currently, the PDU in Northern Ireland has three contracts with the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) for the delivery of Social Work Education across the Voluntary sector. We also have a Practice Learning Centre contract, and are one of three such centres for the voluntary sector in Northern Ireland.

We also have a VOCALS contract, which is a centralisation of all communication-related social work education from across the sector into one place, so that all information about social work education is disseminated by us across the sector. We sit on all the decision-making processes within the universities, the degree partnership and represent the voluntary sector’s interests in discussions and decision-making about what’s happening in social work education.

Meanwhile, our Professional in Practice (PiP) service delivers post-qualifying social work training and assessment to social workers across the voluntary sector, as well as a communication service.

Training for success

A total of 1,765 in-house training places were provided for staff during 2018-19. This training allowed staff to upskill, refresh and acquire additional skills, enabling them to deliver an optimum service across Extern and, above all, provide our service users with a holistic, knowledgeable and empowering approach to their journey when engaging with Extern projects.

Global success

Extern’s Designated Practice Learning Provider also provides social work student placements to students from across the UK and internationally. Furthermore, we offer opportunities to Internationally Qualified Social Workers to gain the experience and assessment needed to register with the NISCC.

In Extern a key belief is that we meet people at their point of need, and that ethos is also a cornerstone of our work for the staff and social workers we support in the PDU.

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