Employers place a strong emphasis on essential skills in the workplace. Essential skills are used in nearly every occupation, and are seen as ¿building blocks¿ because people build on them to learn all other skills.
Each profile contains a list of example tasks that illustrate how each of the 9 essential skill is generally performed by the majority of workers in an occupation. The estimated complexity levels for each task, between 1 (basic) and 5 (advanced), may vary based on the requirements of the workplace.
Social workers help individuals, couples, families, groups, communities and organizations develop the skills and resources they need to enhance social functioning and provide counselling, therapy and referral to other supportive social services. Social workers also respond to other social needs such as unemployment, racism and poverty. They are employed by hospitals, school boards, social service agencies, child welfare organizations, correctional facilities, community agencies, employee assistance programs and Aboriginal band councils, or they may work in private practice.
- Are unable to provide service to clients who are intoxicated and under the influence of drugs. They explain to impaired clients why they cannot provide services and encourage them to come back when they are sober. They may arrange transportation to detoxification centres for clients. (2)
- Cannot access the services that their clients need due to long wait lists and resource shortages. They help clients to develop contingency plans and provide them with interim counselling while they wait for appropriate services to become available. They may advocate for other agencies to adjust their admission criteria and develop needed client services. (3)
- Encounter clients' family members who are uncooperative and dissatisfied. For example, child protection social workers may encounter parents who do not attend scheduled family visits and prevent social workers from seeing their children. They make repeated attempts to discuss their concerns with clients' families. They apply for mental health and child protection warrants to enforce their decisions if clients are at risk. (3)
- Encounter difficult and hostile clients. For example, they may counsel hostile, aggressive and suicidal clients. They address their clients' behaviours, clarify what is expected and work with them to develop appropriate personal boundaries and behaviours. If clients continue to exhibit unacceptable behaviours, they may terminate counseling and refer them to other resources. For example, they may refer hostile clients to anger management programs. (3)
- Decide that interpreters are needed for interviews. They assess the clients' language skills from their introductory interactions with them and information received from referral sources. They consider their own language abilities and the clients' comfort with interpreters before requesting assistance. (2)
- Select programs and social service agencies for clients. They consider clients' counselling needs, goals and treatment plans and the availability of suitable placements. (2)
- Choose counselling strategies and therapies for clients' treatment plans. They consider their clients' problems, the appropriateness of interventions, treatment costs, and their own preferences. They are guided by their organizations' protocols and precedents. (3)
- Decide to terminate counselling and therapy with clients. They consider the degree to which clients' problems have been resolved, the benefits of continuing counselling and clients' abilities to maintain healthy lives. For example, a school social worker may terminate counselling for a child at the end of the school year if sufficient progress has been made. They may also recognize their own professional limitations in dealing with their clients' problems and may make referrals to appropriate helping professionals. (3)
- Decide to call emergency services for assistance. They consider the safety risks to clients and others by violent and suicidal behaviours. For example, social workers call police in cases of injuries and suspected sexual abuse of children. (4)
Job Task Planning and Organizing
- May assess the performance of other social workers, practicum students and volunteers. They review feedback provided by clients and other social workers and observe them directly to assess their communication skills. For example, social work supervisors may participate in group counselling sessions to observe social workers' facilitation skills. (2)
- Evaluate clients' needs. They interview clients and their families to gather information about social supports and stressors such as financial difficulties. For example, geriatric social workers may interview elderly people who are suffering from depression to determine what counselling services, medical treatment and social programs they need. They recommend resources, develop treatment plans and implement counselling strategies that will enhance their clients' quality of living. (3)
- Assess clients' emotional health and mental stability. They ask questions and compare clients' responses to explore benchmarks of wellness such as feelings of self-worth, happiness and existence of supportive relationships with others. Some social workers administer psychosocial assessment and screening tools and analyze the results against norms. They assess the clients' behaviours and examine their appearance to identify signs of stress, poor health and indications of emotional instability. Mental health social workers may ask questions which their clients' levels of stress and assess whether they are taking their medications. (3)
- May assess safety and welfare of children to determine their need for protection from abuse and neglect. They gather information from interviews with children, family members, neighbours, teachers and other professionals. They compare testimonies to medical evidence, police reports, psychiatric assessments and their observations. They examine the children's living conditions to identify signs of neglect and make recommendations for corrective actions under the Child Protection Act. (3)
- Judge the effectiveness of therapies and interventions. They compare clients' self-assessments over time, and observe their behaviours and overall demeanours to identify positive changes that indicate improvements. They consider clients' commitments to their goals and steps taken to reach them. (3)
- May evaluate the effectiveness of counselling and social programs to recommend service revisions and social policy development. They analyze outcome and evaluation data collected from program participants to determine if services are meeting expected needs. They gather feedback from clients, staff members, colleagues and other stakeholders such as funding agents to identify successes, weaknesses and gaps in services that require attention. They review literature from similar programs and synthesize their conclusions into recommendations for new social programs and policy reforms. (3)
Own Job Planning and Organizing
Social workers plan and organize their own job tasks. New cases are assigned to them by intake workers, supervisors and managers. They also acquire new walk-in cases and referrals directly from social work departments and human services agencies. Social workers usually book their own counselling appointments, but must be prepared to modify their schedules if clients are in crisis and require emergency assistance. Child protection social workers may be required to work long hours to carry out investigations until children are deemed safe. (3)
Planning and Organizing for Others
Social workers in supervisory positions plan and organize tasks for other social workers, practicum students and volunteers. They contribute to organizational planning and may participate in the development of operational policies and practices. (3)
Significant Use of Memory
- Remember names and details of previous conversations with clients to build trust and rapport.
- Recall protocols for crisis interventions such as suicide assessments.
- May remember names and effects of commonly-used drugs and medications to answer clients' questions and recognize symptoms of use. For example, mental health social workers may recall the side effects of antipsychotic medications to understand their effects on clients.
- Locate information about community resources for clients by searching local resource directories, consulting information available on the Internet and telephoning community agencies directly. (1)
- Find information about suspected cases of child abuse and neglect. For example, when sexual abuse of children is suspected, they may set-up interviews with police officers, teachers, health professionals, children's families, friends and neighbours. They may also examine medical and school records. (3)
Other Essential Skills:
Working with Others
Social workers work independently to provide counselling services to clients. They coordinate treatment strategies with other social workers and professionals including teachers, medical doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, police officers and lawyers. (2)
Social workers learn continuously to stay abreast of new community resources, counselling interventions and therapeutic treatments. They determine their own learning goals, which vary considerably depending on areas of expertise. They attend conferences, seminars and workshops offered by post-secondary institutions, community organizations and professional associations. They learn about subjects ranging from cultural diversity to sexual health. They read academic journals, articles and books to learn about new perspectives on social issues and prospective therapeutic treatments. They benefit from the expertise of other professionals and learn by discussing cases with other social workers and participating in case management teams. Social workers may also learn from feedback offered by clinical supervisors. (3)