Laurentian University to hire more social work staff to save accreditation

Laurentian University is trying to hire more staff at its social work schools now that they are at risk of losing accreditation, according to administration.

'If this program loses its accreditation, I have to start all over again,' student says

The Canadian Association for Social Work Education, which accredits social work programs, wants Laurentian University to hire more than eight new staff. (CBC)

Laurentian University is trying to hire more staff at its social work schools now that they are at risk of losing accreditation, according to administration. 

The Canadian Association for Social Work Education, the organization that officially recognizes the programs, recently told the university its social work schools are understaffed.

Two full-time professors and one part-time administrative staff member are required at the university's Indigenous social work program. Three full-time English professors, two full-time French professors and one full-time staff member to help with field placements are also needed.

"I'm kind of upset at the school because, if it was a staffing issue, then it should have been dealt with before September, when new students were coming into start the program," student Matthew Dueck said. 

Dueck, who is a first-year distance Indigenous social work student, is anxiously checking for updates about his program's status from his home in Manitoba. He told CBC News he needs to graduate from an accredited program to work as a registered social worker in his field. 

"If this program loses its accreditation, I have to start all over," he said. 
Pierre Zundel, Laurentian University's vice president academic and provost, insists the school is working towards hiring more social work faculty. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

VP 'confident' programs will keep accreditation 

Last year, CBC interviewed the university's then-vice president of academic and provost, Robert Kerr, about the programs staffing levels. He insisted they would not lose accreditation. 

"The program is not going to end," Kerr said.

"The students currently in the program will graduate from an accredited program and we will do everything we can to make sure that in the future students are able to continue to graduate from a quality, accredited program."

Still, faculty numbers continue to be an issue almost one year later. 

The amount of students enrolled in social work has doubled over the past six years, according to new vice president Pierre Zundel.
    
"We've actually been trying to fill positions and work with the department to make that happen. It was more complicated than I suspect they thought," Zundel said.

"If I was meeting the students, I would say, 'I know this is stressful. We understand you have a lot at stake. Stay focused on your studies. Stay focused on your field placements. We're doing what we have to do and I'm confident that we'll get there'."

Zundel does not anticipate any problems with hiring new staff. 

A decision on the accreditation of the university's social work programs will be made next year.

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