Baker Senior Center Naples is tackling its need for social workers with recruits who know clearly what the job entails.
The first year of a new fellowship program that debuted last fall has wrapped up with two master’s degree students who graduated this past spring from Florida Gulf Coast University.
The second year of the fellowship program is set to start in August.
The two students in the inaugural program have switched hats from fellows to enthusiastic full-time employees and that’s mission accomplished to Jaclynn Faffer, president and chief executive officer of the private, nonprofit organization.
The senior center has signed up 1,200 new members in the eight months since moving into its spacious new center at 6200 Autumn Oaks Lane in North Naples.
That’s a testament to how the center’s programs are filling a critical need for services for an increasing aging population.
It also means needing licensed clinical social workers who are not easy to come by, so establishing an in-house fellowship program as a training and recruiting mechanism became the creative solution.
Roughly 37% of Collier’s population of just under 400,000 residents are seniors and the region remains a retirement mecca; the senior center doesn’t anticipate any slow down in growth. It’s membership roll stands at 1,800 after a severe drop during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is hard to get social workers in this area,” Faffer said. “It is very hard to get social workers who want to work with an older population.”