Practice Development Unit (PDU)

Over the past forty years, Extern’s staff have built up a considerable wealth of knowledge and frontline experience in the voluntary social work sector. And it is because of this that Extern has earned its reputation as a trusted and highly-regarded organisation, and is now the leading provider of social work placements in the voluntary sector in Northern Ireland.

Each year, we assist students from both of Northern Ireland’s main universities, as well as further afield and internationally, with finding the right placements which will help get their careers started in this challenging but rewarding sector.

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.

Leading organisation

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.

Global reach

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.