During the last two and a half years, the world has turned upside down by the corona pandemic. After the world shut down, teaching and studying moved from campuses and other operating environments to the internet overnight. The teachers faced a challenge: how to teach things online that cannot be taught – and most importantly learned – online? At the core of a socionom’s competence are professional interaction skills, that can only be learned online to some extent.
Social services studies at Laurea are based on real-life work projects and development assignments. Teaching and learning are built around a research- and development-oriented approach, which is called Learning by Developing (LbD). In the LbD model, the students learn to combine theory and practice. In addition, students develop problem-solving skills and critical thinking. (Laurea, no date). Social services students have been taking part in working life projects right from the first weeks of their studies: What is learned in the courses is immediately put into practice in working life projects. With the pandemic, the way of teaching and learning that is characteristic of us at Laurea had to give way to online lectures and online assignments.
The pandemic has subsided and now it’s time to say that even though we did our best, the fact is that the corona period took away from students the opportunity to learn by developing and experiencing – and to network and build connections with work life.
In the beginning of November social services students and alumni gathered together at a Career possibilities event to tell and hear about different work environments, as well as practice placement and career opportunities. Idea for the Career Possibilities -event came from senior lecturer Maria Normann, who invited our former and current students to share their experiences from studies, practice placements and working life. During the pandemic study visits and working life cooperation have been scarce, largely because Covid19 has required special efforts also from the social sector.
During the Career Possibilities -event fourth year student Minna Tolppanen presented her practice placement experiences and first year student Diana Bratu told about her work experience at Hirundo day centre. Laurea alumni Heini Reynolds, Laura Loisa and Maija Metsäranta shared their study and career stories: None of them could have imagined at the beginning of their studies that they would end up in their current workplace. Although the journey through studies to working life was not always easy, every twist and trial has brought valuable experience that has been useful. In the speeches of the alumni, kindness was emphasized and the message to the students was clear: be kind to yourself. In working life, no one has been interested in grades, and the stress during studies did not bring any added value to life.
Practice placements played a significant role in alumni’s careers. The most important tips for choosing and finding a practice placement are:
- When considering a possible internship, you should be open-minded. If possible, you should try working in as many different environments as possible – the social services field is broad and so are the career opportunities.
- In order to find a placement, you should dive into the world of the World Wide Web, nowadays many workplaces have their own social media account, through which you can familiarize yourself with the work being done there.
Feedback from the event was positive: Beneficial! Interesting! “It was useful to hear about possible placements. It was important that the alumni presented their work experience and current work places, because social services is such a broad field of work and the opportunities are huge.”
This autumn we have returned to the new normal. Although the transition from online to campus has felt difficult at times, it has also been immensely rewarding. Real human contacts, face to face discussions and sharing of experiences are the essence of this work. More Career Possibilities events will follow in 2023.