Opportunities at Think Ahead
Think Ahead is a graduate scheme that aims to provide a new route into mental health social work for recent graduates and people looking for a career change. The programme is intended for people who are not already qualified in social care, therefore to apply, you must have, or be predicted to achieve at least a 2:1 degree in any subject except social work (or equivalent degree from a non-UK university).
The course allows people to gain valuable on-the-job experience working at an NHS Trust or local authority in England, whilst gaining excellent academic learning. The full-time programme typically begins in July and will last a total of 26 months.
You will gain a postgraduate diploma in social work after year one and after year two you will receive a master's degree in social work. Both of these qualifications are awarded by Middlesex University and are fully funded by Think Ahead.
How to get hired at Think Ahead
There are around 160 places available for the Think Ahead programme, as such competition for the programme is fierce, and the selection process is rigorous.
To be successful in the selection process you need to stand out from the other applicants. Think Ahead is looking for candidates who exhibit the attributes required to be successful in the programme. These attributes include:
Keep these attributes in mind throughout the application process to ensure that you prove to the hiring manager that you are the right candidate for the programme.
Think Ahead Application Process
The application process for the Think Ahead programme consists of several stages including an online application form, an online test, and an assessment centre.
Register your interest
If you meet the eligibility criteria for the programme, the first stage of the application process is to register your interest, which involves providing some basic personal details and information on your academic qualifications. Applications typically open in the Autumn for programmes starting the following year.
Situational Judgement Test
After you have registered your interest in the programme, you will be invited to complete an online situational judgement test. This test will present you with hypothetical scenarios that you might encounter in your day-to-day job as a mental health social worker. You will then need to select from a list of multiple-choice responses which is the most effective.
This is used to give Think Ahead an idea of how you are likely to cope in certain situations and assess if you are the right candidate for the programme. Make sure you read every question carefully to ensure you fully understand the scenario. In preparation for the situational judgement test, familiarise yourself with Think Ahead's core values and the attributes they are looking for, and keep these in the front of your mind when answering the questions.
If you are successful in the situational judgement test you will be asked to complete an online application form. This requires more details than registering your interest, as you will need to upload an up-to-date CV and a cover letter.
The application form will also require you to answer some questions so recruiters can learn more about you. Make sure to spend time crafting a well thought out response, which pulls examples from your previous work experience, academic studies, or another area of your life. Think Ahead will look to see how you have demonstrated that you are aligned with their core values and that you possess the necessary attributes.
If you have a strong application and you performed well in the situational judgement test, you may be invited to attend the assessment centre. Due to the pandemic, the assessment centre is currently being run remotely, however, the recruitment team will provide more information on the arrangements for you. During the assessment centre, you will be assessed by experienced professionals and mental health service users and carers.
The assessment centre will consist of several activities and exercises including:
Interviews - You will participate in multiple interviews during the assessment centre. Make sure to give detailed and well-structured responses that keep in mind the Think Ahead core attributes. Your responses should include relevant examples from your past work experience, education, or another area of your life.
Group exercises - Here you will be placed in groups with other candidates and will have to solve a task or problem. The hiring managers will be assessing your communication skills, teamwork, and how you tackle the problem at hand.
Roleplay - You will act out a hypothetical scenario that you could encounter whilst on the programme so you can be assessed on how you tackle difficult situations.
Think Ahead uses the assessment centre to get to know you better, see how you work in a team, and assess how you respond to different situations and tasks. It is also an opportunity for you to learn more about what the programme involves and if it is right for you.
Tips To Get Hired
Understand The Think Ahead Attributes
Throughout the application process Think Ahead will be looking for evidence that you possess their core attributes. Therefore to give yourself the best chance of success you must familiarise yourself with these and keep these in mind at every stage, whether you are answering questions on the application form, or participating in a group activity at the assessment centre.
Prepare For The Application Process
To give yourself the best chance of getting hired, you should prepare for each stage of the application process. Familiarising yourself with Think Ahead's core values will be useful throughout the application process, but also practicing sample situational judgement tests and preparing STAR interview responses will help give you the edge at these stages.
The most effective way to prepare for the situational judgement test is to take practice tests as this will help you become familiar with the format and style of the questions. Try to take your practice tests in a quiet environment that is free from distractions, as this will help you remain focused.
Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]
How Much Will I Be Paid?
During the Summer Institute and Year One, you will receive a tax-free training bursary of £17,200 outside London or £19,100 inside London. In the second year, you will be employed as a newly qualified social worker and your salary will range from around £21,000 to £33,000, depending on where you're located.
Where Will I Work?
You will work at an NHS trust or local authority in England. Where you are located is likely to change over the two years of the programme, but will still be in the geographical area covered by your host organisation.
What Qualifications Will I Receive?
At the end of Year One, you will receive a postgraduate diploma in social work, and at the end of Year Two, you will receive a master's degree in social work. Both of these qualifications are awarded by Middlesex University.
How Much Free Time Will I Have?
Think Ahead is a full-time programme during the Summer Institute, Year One, and Year Two. Typically, you will not need to work during evenings or weekends, but as Think Ahead is an intensive programme, you may find yourself using some of your evening and weekend time for your academic studies.