As a youth worker with over a decade in practice a number of qualifications and a private practice I have supported many youth workers on placement. In these situations I have tried to provide the best learning environment for each individual student. However many youth workers report that they are little more than gofers. Go for coffee, go for printing, go for this meeting.
This unfortunately is not an uncommon experience of students on placement. As a field placement supervisor I have spoken to dozens of students over the past year about their experience and the vast majority have felt like goffers. Go for coffee, go for my printing, go for … The list is endless. Students, particularly in their final year, need to be allowed to practice their skillset not just watch as it is done by others. They need opportunity to practice in a supervised environment to gain confidence and experience. They need supervisors who can let go of their work and pass it on to them.
If you are going to take on a student this year here are a few ideas to help them and you integrate as much as possible.
- Reading is essential to any job but more than a week of reading policies and procedure manuals is over the top.
- Regular weekly supervision that addresses different aspects of the role is essential. Dont just ask about tasks, but set articles to be read before sessions to stimulate conversation.
- Dont expect students to know everything.
- Expect them to be competent at a first job standard.
- Give them genuine tasks to sink their teeth in. They may be cheap labour, but they are useless to you as goffers! Remember it is costing the student to do the placement.
- Have a plan of action from day one with a number of tasks that must be achieved and review this weekly.
- Finally, get to know your student and have space for them to get to know you.