Ivy Tech Human Services Program fulfills need for growing career base

Ivy Tech Human Services Program fulfills need for growing career base
By: Beth Ireland Last Updated: March 29, 2020

Picture a senior living center... You’ll see they need skilled activities or social services directors. See that addiction counseling center? They need qualified addiction counselors. That local youth program needs well-trained individuals who can connect and guide our youth. All of these organizations require skilled and highly trained human services workers, and Ivy Tech Community College’s Human Services Program is educating and preparing them.

“Human Services is the study in which professionals can improve the quality of life of clients and the community,” said Donald Spears, Professor and State-wide Chair of Human Services at Ivy Tech Community College. “They can work with individuals, families, and at the community level. We work to make a difference at all of those levels because they all influence the quality of life for everyone.”

When a student enrolls in the human services program at Ivy Tech, one of the stand-out qualities of the program is the amount of hands-on experience they will receive.

“We do a lot of community work. I try to build service-learning into as many of my classes as possible,” Spears said. “Hands-on learning is really important because we need to think of human services as being part of health care. Human services needs to be viewed through the same lens. We would not want somebody in the medical field who did not have the practical experience to be out there providing services. What we do is just as important. We’re dealing with either social or mental conditions and very vulnerable clients. Our students have a lot of practical experience, and I think it’s a safety issue in addition to teaching professionalism.”

Students receive this hands-on experience through internships. They’re required to do two at different agencies and in the classroom. Another great opportunity for hands-on learning is the “Adopt an Agency” program. Each semester in the Program Planning and Policy Issues class, Spears looks for local non-profit agencies who need assistance that the class can adopt. The students learn theories in the class and then actually practice them.

“We read and talk about certain concepts and then we practice them in the classroom,” he said. “Then, I have the students actually work with the agency, and we provide free consultation services to the agencies. We help them with strategic planning, budgeting, program planning, and any other areas they find they need assistance.”

This prepares students for fulfilling positions helping others throughout the community in varied organizations.

“I have students who work with clients with intellectual or developmental disabilities, I have some who work in mental health, others who work in addiction, and some that work with children,” Spears said. “There’s a wide range of possibilities for students.”

Human services is a growing field with an increasing demand for professionals.

“Part of it is the increasing prevalence of autism and developmental disorders as well as the aging of the baby boomers and the nationwide opioid epidemic. It’s going to be even more in demand as baby boomers get older and try to age in the home instead of in an agency. There are still services that have yet to be identified or created that are going to be needed by the baby boomers. I think that’s a huge potential growth for careers,” Spears said.

Ivy Tech Community College is a great place for students of all ages, and for the Human Services program, having that age diversity only makes for better students all around.

“It’s really good for everybody when I have a combination of traditional-age students and adult learners because they learn from each other,” Spears said. “They have their own perspectives being from different generations and as they share stories in class discussions, they learn how to empathize by learning how somebody from a different generation can do the exact same thing in a very different way. Empathy is one of the key skills of human services.”

Ivy Tech’s flexible 8-week courses and the ability to transfer credits to most state universities gives students the freedom to earn their associate’s degree quickly and get to work or continue school.

“In two years, we prepare students to either enter the human or social services agencies and work with clients or continue their education at the bachelor’s level,” Spears said. “We have agreements through the state and the universities that allows any Ivy Tech Human Services Associate of Science graduate to transfer curriculum. If they’re admitted into a university and into a school of social work, it’s a two plus two. They finish their first 60 credit hours with us and will start at the university at the junior level and will not be required to take more than 60 additional credit hours. It’s a really nice transfer program.”

You can find more information on the stellar transfer here: https://www.ivytech.edu/transfer/.

If you’re looking for a career where you can help others, check out the Human Services program at Ivy Tech Community College. You’ll receive a quality education that prepares you for a satisfying career.

For more information about Ivy Tech, visit their website: https://www.ivytech.edu/.