Understanding our origins, history and identifying with our past is an essential component to be able to raise new positions and open new paths for the Social Work discipline. This is a challenge that begins in the training process and culminates in the professional exercise. According to the UN “Higher education has a social responsibility, to train professionals committed to society, knowing that the commitment of each professional is to achieve social human development”. Vocational Training requires a great social responsibility, to contribute to the growth of society through its professionals, who will oversee and address the challenges of the current and emerging social problems. This article seeks to provide an analysis regarding the responsibility that the professional university-based social work training must have with society and the challenges that it attributes to professional practice.
University Vocational Training and its responsibility with the Society
The university has a social responsibility to train professionals committed to societal well-being as well as an understanding that the commitment of each professional is to achieve social human development. In this way, higher education has the responsibility to identify the direction of change and make decisions to integrate into the present and project into the future what is required of professional practice and to prepare professionals for future work (that is linked to the real issues that emerge in the future).
The university’s social responsibility must be understood as the institution's commitment to disseminate and implement a set of knowledge, skills, and values that must be delivered through professional training where the development of being, knowing, and knowing how to do is crucial to its mission. To respond to the above, professional training must assume a commitment to society and its emerging social problems, as the authors Castañeda and Salame (1996) point out, in the face of the culture of social responsibility in vocational training, they state that it must assume the commitment to:
- Train professionals with solid scientific-technological knowledge and committed to values and principles of human, social and ecological sensitivity.
- Promote social responsibility activities in the community.
- Train graduates with social awareness about their profession, as a commitment to service towards human development.
- Contribute to the solution of problems of society or of the scenario in which it will intervene.
- Develop research and innovation spaces and groups towards the advancement of theoretical and practical knowledge with social responsibility, with solid scientific foundations and values, which allow to assess and transform social and environmental dynamics for human development.
From this perspective, professional training should consider a timely transmission of skills and appropriate tools so that each professional can respond to the demands of society according to their area of expertise and practice specialty and should also seek to enhance the skills and abilities that each discipline is demanding. In this context, one of the professions tasked with this job, is the discipline of social work. This is because it is a profession that is in permanent contact with people, and that their professional work forces it to have a permanent relationship with society and its needs. This is reflected in the multiple functions that social work fulfills within society. The country, its development and growth require professionals prepared to face the multiple and complex demands and needs and be willing to adapt to the changes and transformations that emerged from its development.
Social work’s professional training is constituted from the valuation of a formative tradition that has contributed decisively to the legitimacy of professional work, but this is not enough. The emerging dynamics and new social problems and structural transformations that society experiences require a critical review of the training programs, which must be constant and with follow-up processes, in order to allow a timely restructuring that ensures the development of the professional practice according to the new social reality as it occurs.
Chilean society has undergone major changes at the economic, social, political and mainly cultural level. Changes can be linked to the effects of globalization, migratory processes, new information technology and new forms of communication, among others. These changes have impacted and forced the different helping disciplines to adapt their professional work to the new demands and needs by this new society that is in a constant transformation. In this way, professionals have had to seek, create, innovate on the march, new ways of intervening in the unknown scenarios that social reality expresses, acquiring new tools, new knowledge, new skills that equip professionals to respond to the demands and challenges that they face day by day. However, the challenge is put before professional practice and the responsibility passes to professional training to train professionals with the tools, skills and knowledge necessary to give response to this new society; that is training program needs to be forward thinking and adapt to changes in social needs even before they emerge. Elizalde (1991) has argued that “the institutionalization of this transmission of experiences is expressed in the educational and training centers, transmitters of knowledge, those who face a growing speed and transcendence in scientific advances and technological changes, have drifted towards a growing specialization and disciplinarity of knowledge”, Rather than continue this drift the training institutions have the responsibility of generating professionals who are able to function in the workplace and thus be able to respond according to their abilities and knowledge to the required requirements of new social systems and arrangements as they develop.
The challenges of Vocational Social Work Training
Vocational training is a key process for the development of discipline within society since it is the basis for professionals to implement the tools, knowledge, skills, values that have been taken throughout their training. Since the mid-twentieth century, there have been important changes in society, which should be assumed by vocational training, to adapt and prepare future professionals to face these new social events. Social work needs to be reflective, adaptive and rethink their objectives and establish flexible and adequate structures that allow preparing and training integral professionals who are partakers of the changes the country is experiencing.
The challenge of the social work training is to identify and specify the direction of the change for its transformation, projecting itself to the future and at the same time promoting the necessary measures to enable the development of the potential of being, knowing and knowing how to do, while also having the social responsibility of having a set of competencies for the development of the discipline, motivating research, innovation and social projects, which require training professionals with solid theoretical, methodological and ethical knowledge, adjusted to professional practice. This is possible by maintaining a permanent dialogue with the institutions, the state, the professionals in practice, which will allow access to and recognize the local, communal, regional, national and international priorities and needs that society requires. Margarita Rozas (1998) points out that the object of social work is located in the delicate intersection between the processes of daily reproduction with its respective obstacles and difficulties and the distribution processes, where "the object of intervention is constructed from the daily reproduction of the social life of the subjects, explicitly based on multiple needs that are expressed as demands and deficiencies and thus arrive at the institutions to be helped from where the students forge a relationship and a link with social reality, allowing them to become part of what happens there, establishing the course, the social commitment that each professional should have when implementing their discipline”.
Recognizing the context, understanding the political and governance fabric, will allow you to make a link between the theoretical-epistemological and social reality, and forge a compression of social phenomena. This will generate a comprehensive knowledge that contributes to critical thinking- reflective against the spaces where to intervene, which in turn will allow you to assume a professional position and opinion, which can lead, in your professional practice to proposals in social policies, and participating in the planning or evaluation of these. Social work schools must assume the commitment to develop a comprehensive professional training, which must be understood as one that trains a person as a professional, and therefore must be involved as an agent of change, through its activity, with transformative responsibility of reality, taking into account the social context where it takes place.
The invitation is to look at the training plans, rethink their structures, see their concordance with reality, adapting and reconceptualizing the old schemes and reconstructing what is necessary to improve current training models that are able to respond to the new demands and challenges that professionals have in the social scenario where it acts. The challenge is to take care of learning spaces, mainly where the student is in direct contact with the community, looking for spaces where linking and integration between knowledge is possible, making a contribution to institutions, but focusing on the empowerment of learning. These tasks require social work schools to evaluate and innovate in the spaces where they are inserted. Castañeda and Salamé (2005) agree. They argue that as today’s innovation is recognized as a permanent demand and linked to the technological, economic dynamics that follow each other in the globalized society, social work schools should align with the advances and assume the changes as a necessary part of the student learning process.
In this way the Schools have a great responsibility to deliver the biggest and best tools where professionals are configured, trained to respond to the demands of a multidimensional and complex society that changes and mutates rapidly. Iamamoto (1998) points out that " one of the biggest challenges is that because the social worker lives in the present, is incumbent to develop his/her ability to decipher reality and build proposals for creative works and be capable of preserving and realizing rights, based on emerging demands in everyday life. Therefore, the invitation is to be alert and problematize about what is to be done and what is necessary to do and deliver the skills that allow the understanding of complex and multiple spaces in which it will intervene.
Academics who teach classes must assume this commitment and ensure that their teaching is adequate, of quality and adjusted to the social context where they are going to intervene. It is necessary to be alert to the transformations and changes that they experience, both socially, economically, politically and culturally, and try to adapt their training proposals and adapt the guidelines to the current and future needs that emerge.
Social work’s professional training requires permanent contact with people and as their commitment is to train professionals at the service of society, we must adjust and constantly review the curriculum to “search for new responses to the requirements of a dynamic and demanding professional environment, whose growing demands for flexibility and multifunctionality, permanently question the contents of a disciplinarily specialized repertoire” (Castañeda & Salamé, 2005).
The challenge is to open spaces for theoretical discussion, to open spaces for dialogue between disciplines, which allows us to build a common ground against the social phenomena with which we are going to intervene, since these demand need to be addressed from different perspectives, different knowledge, different disciplines that will help provide timely solution as the needs emerge. As mentioned above, an imminent, constant relationship with the environment, with the institutions, with the professionals who are in constant contact with the social reality is necessary and it is they who must deliver the lines by which professional training should be focused. We must generate a strong bond, not of use of space as only a practice center, but a joint construction, where institutions and their professionals demand professional training skills, knowledge, tools, skills that they manifest as inescapable for professional action.
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