An experience opportunity for social work students

Previous Youngstown State University students in the University Partnership Program program posing together. Photo courtesy of Phyllis Johnson

By Jessica Stamp

At Youngstown State University, social work students have an opportunity to gain field work experience with the University Partnership Program. The program allows students to obtain real-life experience and internships in a competitive field.

The program partners with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Institute of Human Services, Ohio Child Welfare Training Program, Public Children Services Association of Ohio and public children services agencies in all 88 Ohio counties.

Phyllis Johnson, UPP coordinator, helps students in their junior or senior year interested in working in child welfare to have a chance at getting hands-on experience. 

“Our goal is to develop a workforce — a fast-track workforce — that will enable students, once they graduate, to already have somewhat of a foundation upon which they would be able to do their job,” Johnson said. 

These students receive other benefits in the program, such as a field internship at a child welfare agency and incentive money upon program completion.

Getting into the program is highly competitive, as it only accepts seven to 11 students. 

“The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services gives every university a number,” Johnson said. “Getting into the program is highly selective [and] is somewhat competitive because we do have to select students that we feel will be successful and who really have a strong passion for doing child welfare.”

Julia Kozel, senior social work major, has been in the program for approximately a year and was recruited by a friend in the program.

“You … had the people that are in the program, tell them about their experiences, what they liked and what they didn’t and just to see if it’s right for them,” Kozel said.

She said this program gave her the opportunity to complete the training hours necessary for a job. 

“When you take these classes, you basically eliminate almost 100 hours worth of training that you would have to complete,” she said.

Clay Vosslier, social case worker at Trumbull County Children’s Services, participated in the program before graduating in 2020.

“It was a good experience. I feel like it really helped me get the hang of the whole child welfare field before I actually started,” Vosslier said. 

Vosslier said the UPP-provided training gives students better opportunities for employment.

“It gives you a lot of good practice before you’re hired,” he said. “It guarantees you an internship at a child welfare agency.”

Vosslier collaborated with Johnson to recruit students by attending freshman and sophomore social work classes. 

“I attended the social work beginning classes with the coordinator and just pretty much told them my experience, how I feel the program is beneficial [and] what you have to do in the program,” Vosslier said. 

To apply for the program, students must complete social work classes and have an average GPA of 2.5 or higher.