Men at Work
“We have difficulty bringing in young men and keeping them in the department of Social Work and Education.” This had been a longstanding issue for multiple years and the lectorate was asked to contribute to thinking about a solution. Instead of a top-down approach, the lectorate opted to work from below and include a networking approach. It started with the question who are the experts on this subject that need to be consulted? Of course those were the students themselves. From there the staff – teaching as well as support staff, alumni and the work field needed to be included.
A meeting was held during which students, alumni, teaching staff, support staff, professionals and research group members collectively engaged the themes that contribute to the high drop out rates of males in Social Work. This meeting was followed by another session where they further explored what “manliness” meant and to what extent it is valued within social work education and the work field. As such, it became an exploration of gender with special consideration for identity, stigma, social support, inclusion and exclusion.
What started with a simple question, now has contributed to various initiatives; first of all an adjustment in the social work curriculum that has expanded from being care-oriented to start including issues of management and security. These aspects are going to be developed with partners. These partners are represented in The Hague University of Applied Sciences (i.e. Internal Security, Nursing, Pedagogical studies, Education, etc.) as well as in the work field (police, corrections, street work, etc.). Secondly, a student has used the data of these findings to write their bachelor’s thesis. Thirdly an article is being prepared to highlight this issue. Finally, the work floor has been made aware of these kinds of processes and possible solutions.
This project shows how what may initially seem like an innocuous and simple question can achieve broad impact, but also how important it is to start with an appreciation of knowledge and expertise close to home.