Officials at the University College of the Cayman Islands say they are addressing a need for social workers by introducing a three-tiered program this fall that will allow students to pursue everything from a certificate to a bachelor’s degree in the field. An official announcement of the program is scheduled for March 28 at the campus.

The program is one of two major goals UCCI President Roy Bodden had said he wanted to accomplish before leaving the college later this year. The first was the establishment of the college’s nursing program, which graduated its first class last year.

Livingston Smith, director of special projects for the college, said the social work program came out of a survey several years ago. The demand for social workers from government agencies and the interest among students surprised him and other campus administrators, he said.

“Many people in the Cayman Islands are working in a variety of social work areas,” Mr. Smith said, “but they are not necessarily trained. We thought a certificate course would ensure that people who come can get basic training. Then you could go on to an associate degree.”

And, with the new program, a bachelor’s degree is also offered.

Demand for social workers has been growing worldwide, Mr. Smith said, in part because of the large number of people displaced by conflict. Such jobs are also increasing in the Cayman Islands, he said. Many of those filling those jobs are coming from overseas.

“We felt we should be training our own workers,” he said.

He expects there will be between 45 and 50 students in the program, which he said would be tailored to the Cayman culture.

The rollout of the program will be the culmination of a day-long open house for UCCI, featuring informational booths, food and entertainment. Part of the social work launch, Mr. Smith said, will be a mini-expo, showing off examples of work being done in such programs.

Kersten Svensson, of Sweden’s Lund University, and Christine Moriconi, of Pennsylvania’s West Chester University, are scheduled to be the featured speakers at the event. Both are professors in social work. The two women will also be teaching a series of master classes on March 29 at UCCI.

Mr. Smith said their participation highlights the college’s current and future ties to larger universities. UCCI already has a cooperative relationship with West Chester University and hopes to form one with Lund University, he said. The latter school currently sends some of its social work program students to the Cayman Islands as part of its educational training. Mr. Smith said he’s hoping a reciprocal program can be established.

Many international employers require social workers to have a master’s degree, he said, which makes establishing strong ties to other universities important for students coming out of UCCI who want to pursue higher degrees.

He said launching the new program shows the kind of growth he and others hope will continue at the college.

“It demonstrates we are thinking ahead of the game and we are doing so not in a vacuum or parochial manner,” Mr. Smith said, “but in a way that makes sure we are working with other universities.”

The open house on March 28 begins at 10 a.m. and runs through the day. The social work program launch is from 6-8 p.m.

For more information, call 623-8224.

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