Practice based learning in Northern Ireland is a core element of social work education and comprising 50% of the degree programme for undergraduate and postgraduate students. This article presents evidence about the perceptions of practice learning from voluntary sector/non-government organisation (NGO) placement providers and final year social work students on social work degree programmes in Northern Ireland in 2011. It draws on data from 121 respondents from189 final year students and focus group interviews with voluntary sector providers offering 16% (85) of the total placements available to students. The agencies who participated in the research study provide a total of 55 PLOs to social work students, and are therefore fairly representative in terms of voluntary sector (NGO) provision. The article locates these data in the context of practice learning pedagogy and the changes introduced by the Regional Strategy for Practice Learning Provision in Northern Ireland 2010–2015. Several themes emerged including; induction, support and guidance, practice educator/student relationship, professional identity and confidence in risk assessment and decision-making. Social work educators, placement providers and employers must be cognisant of newly qualified social workers’ needs in terms of consolidating knowledge within the formative stages of their professional development.