Student Advocacy Day
March 17, 2015 – Student Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill – marked the start of a student-led social work project to build momentum for advocacy on social work campuses in the Washington metropolitan area and across the country. This 2015 kick-off event – timed to coordinate with the Congressional Social Work Caucus first annual Social Work Day on the Hill – provided hands-on advocacy training with opportunities for social work students to learn how policy is shaped and how pertinent issues affecting the profession as a whole can be addressed at the national level. The Social Work Reinvestment Act (SWRA), a groundbreaking initiative addressing the challenges faced by the social work profession, was a major focus of the day’s training. SWRA recommendations span recruitment, research funding, educational debt, salary inequalities, and more. Students participated in an advocacy forum to learn about the bill and effective lobbying strategies before heading to congressional offices where they requested legislators support or sponsor the SWRA.
This year’s Student Advocacy Initiative, which was initially proposed by Greater Washington Society for Clinical Social Work (GWSCSW) student member Shauntia White, was a broad-based team of Clinical and Macro social work students from the Catholic University of America (Ms. White and David Paul), Howard University (Jeanni Simpson) and the University of Maryland (Philecia Tyrell). This team had garnered the sponsorship of GWSCSW, the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work Policy (CRISP), the Congressional Social Work Caucus, and the Catholic University of America, as well as support from the Clinical Social Work Association, Social Work Helper and BrandU. Their project has engendered enthusiastic participation from across the social work, legislative, and advocacy communities, and several dozen fellow students have committed to volunteering for a variety of tasks on Student Advocacy Day.
The social work profession can be viewed as the backbone of health care and social services, with more than 650,000 individuals with social work degrees employed in the field. It is also one of the fastest growing careers in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012) anticipates that the percentage of Americans who are employed in a variety of social work settings will increase by more than 100,000 jobs by 2022.
A 2013 Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) Annual Survey of Social Work reported that 46% of Master’s degrees were awarded to individuals aged 25–34 years, 86.4% were women, and 31.2% were from under-represented groups. By field placements, 22.9% of master’s students were placed in mental health, compared to 1.8% in administration and 0.8% in social policy. Through in-person training on Capitol Hill, social work organizations can provide millennials a platform to voice ideas and concerns to legislators and congressional staff, to speak up about the need for support for professional growth and innovation in the field, and to experience the power of getting involved in direct advocacy.
Call to Action for 2015 and Beyond
As we move through our academic studies and careers, we all need to make a commitment to uphold social work values and engage in direct advocacy. It is our responsibility to pave the way for younger generations to ensure the future of the social work profession.
Greater Washington Society for Clinical Social Work (partner organization)
Dean Rainford, National Catholic School of Social Service, The Catholic University of America
Association for Community Organization and Social Administration (ACOSA)
Social Work Helper
2016 Student Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill : TBA