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Developing the para professional social service workforce

While community level workers, often para professionals, provide an array of social services in various countries across the globe, the functions and activities of these workers are not well described or delineated within or across countries. Training, credentialing, supervision and evaluation of para professional community social services vary as well based on local context. The Alliance's Interest Group on Para Professionals in the Social Service Workforce developed a guidance document for developing programs and activities related to how para professionals can be trained, developed, deployed and supported, and a competency framework to provide program guidance, accountability and ultimately inform both training and supervision. The guiding principles related to developing  the para professional social service workforce are as follows:

  • A career ladder should be accessible to all social service para professionals. It should be underpinned by further education where credit for prior training and work experience is given, and which leads to professional advancement. This includes the ability to take on higher level roles and increased salaries when demonstrating the necessary abilities and competencies.
  • A “lattice” approach should enable para professionals to shift focus laterally across professional areas as well as vertically up the career ladder, so that they can realize their interest and talents for on-going professional growth.
  • Training that addresses core specified learning outcomes within the context of standardized and regularly updated curricula should be provided for para professionals. Training should be framed in courses that can be used as stepping stones/career ladders through the advancement of their education. Training should culminate in the awarding of certificates.
  • Recognition should be given to the fact that when a para professional worker attains a higher level of education or progresses to a more advanced level of social service work, this is a positive outcome. However programs need to take into account the need for follow-up, refresher courses and training to replace workers who were thus promoted.
  • Opportunities for training and deployment of para social service workers should, as far as possible, be situated in their places of residence or as close as possible to the ward/villages where they come from.
  • An adult-learning approach, which is participatory and problem-solving-oriented, should be taken in all training of para professional social service workers.
  • As a core strategy, training should incorporate indigenous knowledge and approaches and be adapted to specific national and cultural contexts.
  • Para professional social service workers should engage in creative and innovative thinking to pro-actively address the challenges in their immediate working environment in serving vulnerable people, their families and communities. Educational programs should foster an innovative mind-set building on skills and competencies to create a platform for good ideas, novel approaches for problem solving, and support and opportunities to enhance services and resources to address individual and community needs. As para professionals, these ideas are discussed collaboratively with supervisors and implemented to yield economic, cultural and social value for others.

Resources Related to Developing the Para Professional Workforce

The Alliance has created a curated list of resources specifically relevant to planning, developing and supporting the para professional workforce. These tools are selected from a wider array of relevant tools you can find in our resource database and are intended to feature practical information and actions necessary for strengthening the para professional social service workforce.The below resources are selected as best practice for information, tools and specifics related to developing the para professional workforce:

Strengthening and Supporting the Early Childhood Workforce: Training and professional development

To increase the evidence base on the benefits of early childhood development, a four-part series of global landscape analyses are being conducted to establish the size and scope of the challenges faced by the early childhood workforce, while also highlighting promising practices countries have adopted in response to these challenges. This second resource focuses on the training and professional development of this workforce.

Early Childhood Workforce Initiative
Year of Publication: 

DRC National Training Curriculum for Para-Social Workers Working with Vulnerable Children

The development of this course was adapted from the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance guiding principles, functions and competencies for para social workers. The training includes six modules adapted through an in-country participatory process.

4Children, Catholic Relief Services
Year of Publication: 

Capacity Building of Community-Based Child Care Workers Training Manual for Para Social Workers

This second edition of this training manual aims to build the capacity of para social workers in Uganda through a seven-step evidence-based management model.

Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development Uganda; TPOUganda, National Assocation of Social Workers Uganda; Bantwana Initiative of World Education
Year of Publication: