Over the past five years we have worked with hundreds of youth workers who are struggling in the field. We have searched for a model to explain this to no avail. We heard stories of the challenge of youth work and we heard stories of the need for support.We have done the research and we can tell you why people leave the field. We can tell you how to keep people in their jobs. However, there was no neat package that we could use to help managers understand what was going wrong and frontline staff to recognise where they were at… until now.
Just a quick post this week to let you know about a few things going on in 2017.
First, We were featured in the local media recently and though we would share the article. It shows a bit about why we do what we do. As a service that gets no money from the government to run, sometimes we struggle to get our message out that every youth worker requires good support and training. So it is fantastic when the news does a piece like this. We have had an amazing opportunity to grow into the South Eastern Suburbs in 2016 and cant wait for 2017.
Read it here: 161020-pakenham-gazette
Whats on in 2017?
Second, we have been developing a new way to support our loyal network. We obviously cant do individual or group supervision with you all (Unfortunately) but we know you still need support. Early next year we will be launching a program in the South East of Melbourne to provide a network of encouragement, support and training to build youth workers up. We hear so often how lonely youth work can be. How managers are only concerned about KPI’s and not their staff. Most of all we hear how many people are leaving the sector because they don’t feel supported.
If you are a youth worker in the South East of Melbourne or you know one, get in contact with us so we can keep you up to date. We will have a launch in February so stay tuned. If you are a worker in other parts of the state, Country or even overseas, if this works we hope to replicate it in other areas. We care so much for you and hope that in some little way we are able to support you to reach your goals. When you are at your best your young people get the best support available.
Final thing. We have launched our Professional Development calendar for 2017. Download it and put it up at work. All of our programs can be tailored to your service. No matter where you are we can come to you to deliver our sessions. If you cant make it to us, lets work out how we can come to you.
So the last twelve months have been a rough one at Ultimate Youth Worker. While we have continued to provide the high quality service you have come to know from us We have netted a huge financial loss. Over the past few weeks we have been meeting with our advisors and we have finally come to the conclusion that things need to change in how we do business. This has been a really difficult decision to come to for a number of reasons.
First, we see our organisation as a support to the youth sector and the wider human services sector. We know the difficulties you are all facing with unstable caseloads, insufficient funding and organisational difficulties of your own. We have always tried to provide service that was fairly priced and have often dropped those prices to help where we could. Unfortunately, this is unsustainable. In light of the past twelve months we realise that as a sector there is a huge discrepancy in the need for ongoing professional development and support and the amount organisations budget for these services. We are a business that provides services and from today we will not negotiate on the cost of those services. We are here to serve, we also need to eat.
Second, We love the sector and each individual worker we meet and work with. We want to see people become the best they can be. We want the most well trained and supported professionals working with the community. This costs time and money. We do not get any money from government to run Ultimate Youth Worker. It started as a project to help our mates and grew from there. As governments have defunded community and human services this has had a roll on effect which has meant our usual funding stream has begun to dry up. Organisations are feeling the pinch and so have stopped providing external supervision and training to their staff. We have had a few individuals continue on with us however they are paying out of their own pocket to receive their much needed support. The cost for us to provide ongoing training and supervision is high. Both our time and money are being used extensively to keep these programs afloat.
Finally, We want to see you all reach you potential. We spend hours every week writing blog posts and recording podcasts. Running training and seminars. Speaking at events. All of this costs us and to be honest we haven’t recouped the costs over the last 12 months. We provide our services for a fee and that is based around about the mid point of fee-for-service agencies in Australia. We think it is fair and do not want to charge more for these services. However, with the significant drop in attendance we are at a loss as to the future.
So what does this all mean?
Change or die. For Ultimate Youth Worker to continue on we need to adapt to the current environment or we will die off like so many other agencies. But, this is where you come in. We need your advice. Can you answer these questions for us?
- What is the most important stuff that we do?
- What is this worth to you?
- Has it made any difference to your work/personal life?
- What more do you want?
- How can we reach more people?
- Should we shut up shop?
We have been running since 2012 and have seen a lot of change since then. If we are to continue as an organisation we need your wisdom to help guide us into the future. Our future is in your hands now.
You need a mentor!!!
In todays Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast “You need a mentor”, Aaron gets us thinking about the need for mentors in youth work. We look at five things we need to do to find and get a mentor. He also leaves us with a challenge. Here is the overview.
Find a worthy mentor
Check them out! If you are looking to become a better you in your personal life, your job wherever then you want someone who is going to be able to do that. There are a lot of people who make their living telling you what to do who have never done the things they sprout. Snake oil sellers.
You want to find a person who has lived a worthy life. Who has made mistakes and learnt from them. Who dosen’t have all the answers but has a network of people to help them. Who sees their family as more important than the work.
The key here is to see if their public face and private are the same or if they wear masks. Check out their social media profiles, ask people who know them about their personality and behaviour.
Mentoring doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment. What does this person have to enrich your life or work?
If they are not a fit move on to someone that is.
Be mentor worthy
Nothing will end your search for a mentor faster than if you are not ready. There is an old proverb that goes “when the student is ready the master will appear”. This fits perfectly in mentoring. Mentor will check you out too. You don’t have to be perfect but you have to want to strive towards it. You need to be teachable and open to being challenged. You need to recognise your limitations and know what makes you tick. You need to know your values and why you want a mentor.
Your work must be of an exceptional level. If it’s not you better be able to show that you are trying. You need to be a learner at heart, taking every opportunity to learn a new skill. You must be reflective.
If you tick these boxes you will be in a great place to find and get a mentor. If you don’t tick the boxes it doesn’t mean you are lost. Work on the things that you are lacking and realise that most people will overlook your lack of skills and experience for a bit more passion.
Make the ask
If the potential mentor is worthy and you are a worthy candidate then it’s time to ask them to be your mentor.
- Don’t be a crazy fanboy of girl. Don’t ask for the person to “be your mentor” right off the bat. It too big of an ask at the first meeting. Get to know them first.
- Ask for an initial meeting. Something informal, over coffee maybe. Remember to keep it to less than an hour. Come with questions that you’re prepared to ask, but let the conversation flow. This is the best place for you to check out if they are going to be a good fit for you. If all looks good Ask if they would be willing to mentor you.
- After that initial meeting don’t forget to drop a thank you note to the potential mentor
Don’t ask a yes man
This is a side note to the ask. You don’t want someone who will agree with you all the time. Difference is good. You want someone who will compliment the skills you have and the behavioural style that you have. For more info on this check out our blog posts on DISC. D.I.S.C. The best person to mentor you is one who understands you and brings complimentary knowledge and skills.
Have more than one
In our self care cast we spoke about the need to have multiple people keep you accountable. Similarly no one person will have all the answers. Seek out a few people who can speak into different aspects of your life. Career, family, personal, faith, future. Some people see this as having a board of advisors for your life. They don’t need to all be at the same time. In this case though having more than one person is great.
Give back (be a mentor for others)
If you have been a youth worker for at least 5 years you should be seeking out new youth workers that you can mentor. If you had a new person every year and they went on to mentor other youth workers the numbers grow exponentially. As a sector we would have the most well supported staff ever. We need this so much as most youth workers will bail on the job before they make 5 years. A bit more support will go a very long way.
We challenge you to seek out worthy mentee. It doesn’t have to be someone in your organisation… just someone in the sector.
Mentoring doesn’t have to be a lifetime commitment. Great mentors can come in and out of your life at the weirdest times and that is ok. If you don’t have a mentor get one. If you have been in the field for five years or more we challenge you to be mentoring new youth workers. We know this is going to help you and the youth sector as a whole.
You need more supervision!
When we tell people what we do at Ultimate Youth Worker and that youth workers need more supervision we often hear “But I get supervision at work?”. When we unpack this with staff members what they mean is that their boss knows something about their caseload or program and occasionally allows them to do some professional development. When we ask how often they get this supervision most say that it is sporadic at best. In the AYAC National Youth Work Snapshot 2013 a survey of youth workers showed that 8.4% of surveyed youth workers had never had a supervision session and around 51.7% receive it less than once every three months. As an industry that claims professional status this is appalling. It is no wonder that the sector in Australia turns over staff at 23% every year. Supervision is important to staff retention.
- You are bored at work. One of the most damaging things that can happen to a youth worker in their role is boredom. I know what you are thinking. How can I be bored when I am up to my eyeballs in trying to meet KPI’s. When we meet youth workers for external supervision one of the biggest issues we see is that they are not being challenged. At least not in the right ways. We all need to be stretched just a little bit to be our best self. We need to try new things. We need to find new solutions. If you do the same thing day in and day out you get bored. If you are bored in your role you need more supervision.
- You see supervision as punishment rather than development. Maidment & Beddoe (2012) believe that supervision must be placed at the core of professional development for staff, “We want to place supervision at the heart of professional development, which is career-long and where, via diverse learning activities, practitioners refine and augment their knowledge, develop skills, and undertake supervision to enhance critically reflective practice”. If you see it as a chore in which you will be rebuked for doing the wrong thing rather than encouraged towards best practice then you need more supervision.
- Your boss only talks about tasks in ‘supervision’ sessions. If like most youth workers your boss is giving you their version of supervision which most likely is checking in that you are completing all your tasks then you are not getting supervision. You are getting the administration part of good supervision. Making sure your cases are going well and your paperwork is done is only a small part of it. Tasks take up less than a third off good supervision practice. Hence you need more supervision.
- You have less than one hour once a fortnight. Best practice in supervision says you should be getting at least one hour of reflective supervision every two weeks. If you are not getting the opportunity to develop you as a person and as a practitioner as well as to deal with the admin side of your job then you are not developing as a youth worker. This takes more than one session a month or God forbid one a year. Supervision takes time, but it also pays dividends. In our experience, for every hour spent in supervision it gives you an ROI of 24 hours of exceptional practice.
- You have started to look for a new job. You don’t necessarily hate the job you have but you are starting to feel that if you don’t move on the job will eat you alive. This sense of needing to begin a career search is often where we see most of our clients. Either they or their manager refer them on in an attempt to keep them going. But its hard to stop the Titanic sinking with a bucket. In short if you have started to look for a new job it may be too late. This is always a clear sign you need more supervision.
- You are not up to date with youth work theory and practice. One of the key reasons for youth work supervision is to keep up to date with best practices and current research. If you are not getting this then you are not getting supervision. If you are not being moulded into a better youth worker every session then something is not right. Your supervisor must grow your knowledge and help you to critically reflect.
- You don’t remember the last time supervision looked like this. If your supervision seems lacking after reading this you are not alone. most youth workers we speak to feel the same way. Most managers and team leaders wish they could provide this level of support too. The key is to recognise it and move forward. If you feel like you need more supervision then get it. If your organisation won’t provide it Then get an external supervisor who will.
If you have read this post and you are now wondering what to do then we suggest you look at the links throughout the post as they are a rich source of wisdom in this area. If you can’t find a supervisor in your organisation that is able to provide good supervision then you really only have a few options. Stay and suck it up. Stay and find an external supervisor. Leave the organisation you are currently at for something better. Unfortunately, the stats would say they are few and far between.
At Ultimate Youth Worker we want to see a well supported youth sector. It is why we began back in 2012 and why we started providing supervision from day one. If you need a benchmark then use the resources on this site. If you want us to supervise you we do face to face in Melbourne and Skype throughout the world. Our biggest wish though is that your organisation will provide you with the best supervision.
Let us know if you think we are on the money.
Leave us a comment below.
Online tools you need We live in a time of myth and legend. Apparently Youth workers are mystical creatures who need little money or time to effect massive changes… At least that seems to be the neoliberal view of us. Another myth is that we are all hip and cool with mad computer skills. I…
How to become a youth worker
Our podcast this week is an audio version of our blog post “How do I become a youth worker“? Over the years we have had hundreds of people speak to us, email us, message us on Facebook and even get their parents to reach out to us to ask us the best way to become a youth worker. Honestly, I get asked this question so much that I have decided to put it into a podcast for prosperity sake… and so I had somewhere to point people when they ask. I say this so often it has become a bit of a spiel so stay with me and by the end you will have a clear guide on how to become a youth worker.
It is small easy steps that help you to become a youth worker. All you have to do is:
- Why do you want to become a youth worker?
- Understand your values
- Know what type of youth work you want to do
- Go to training
- Get an education
- Make the most of placement opportunities
- and never ever stop learning.
Take this list and work through all the tips and we guarantee you will become an awesome youth worker. It is a process. You need to take little steps in the right direction.
If you really want to be a solid youth worker that has some career longevity then starting right and getting some support while you do this is so important. Get a person who can mentor you through this process. Someone who has been in the sector for at least five years. When you finally become a youth worker get some good supervision and work for agencies that will look out for you.
Do you think we missed anything???
Let us know what we need to add by emailing us.
One of the biggest concerns youth workers have about the job is the lack of opportunity to move up the pecking order. Most youth work agencies are rather small or they are a niche within a larger service such as health organisations, education or larger non government conglomerates. This leads youth workers to feel that their career options are severely limited.
There is also an erroneous thought that your organisation is meant to look out for you. That they spend time and effort developing you as a person and as a professional to take the next step in your career. The fact of the matter is that if you are not looking at developing your career it is likely that no one else is either.
Start by asking yourself “what position, role or job do I want in 5 years”? 5 years can seem like a long time but if you need some new qualifications or some experience it could take you that long to get it. When you have worked out what type of role you might like its time to hit the job boards. Download 3-5 position descriptions for the roles you might like. You want to audit those positions for the Skills, Traits, Abilities, Experience and Qualifications they are asking candidates to have.
Download our template here Skills Audit
Once you have completed the Audit of position descriptions you need to start breaking the results down for yourself. The easiest place to begin is by asking yourself “Do I have the qualifications I need for the job I want“? This is a question of the depth and breadth of your qualifications. How skilled are you in your area of expertise for example: youth work. Do you hold a certificate that took you 6 months or a Masters which took you 5+ years to get? How broad is your expertise? Is it just in the one field or do you have qualifications in many areas.
Download our Qualifications_Depth and Breath template here
Check out Aaron’s Example here
What experience do you bring to the job you are after? Do you have relevant employment experience? Have you held similar roles? Have you volunteered? Remember when it comes to career development experience is important but more passion trumps experience almost every time.
Check out you local Job sites:
If you are not networking you are standing still. Networking is the second most important career development skill you must have (the first is self care). Are you a member of Peak Bodies or Industry Groups? Are you involved with your Local Youth Work Networks? If not you should be!!! You should also be a member of LinkedIn.com (come and find me when you are signed up).
If you want a long and successful career in youth work the only person who can help you do it is you. Spend time planning and doing the hard yards to get yourself there, but make sure those things are the right things. Work on the areas which will give you the best rewards. Most of all keep going in the sector. We need qualified and motivated people to lead the charge.
If you liked this cast don’t forget to subscribe to us on iTunes
What is Youth Work?
In our previous cast “What is Youth Work – 002” we looked at the broadest overview of youth work. We spoke to the most broad understanding of the youth sector and the term youth work that is surrounding the sector. We also looked at the broadest definition of youth work that we use at Ultimate Youth Worker. If you are paid or volunteer in your capacity to provide support to young people as your primary concern you are doing youth work.
Recap of previous podcast “What is Youth Work – 002”
- The main reason for a definition = Professional status
- In Defence of Youth Work = Emancipatory and democratic youth work that is voluntary and starts with their concerns (link to open Letter)
- National Youth Agency = Non-formal education in various forms (link to NYA)
- RMIT = Youth work is about Justice and Human Rights (link to RMIT)
- YACWA = Youth work is about providing formal and informal support to give young people a voice in their community (link to YACWA)
- YACVIC = Working for and with young people, young people are your primary concern (link to YACVIC)
- European commission on youth = Opportunity for young people to shape their own future (link to EU Youth).
- Department of Children and Youth Affairs = Youth work is complimentary to formal education (link to DCYA)
- Judith Bessant = Engaging with young people as our primary constituency in their social context
- Infed = A history of youth works development (link to Infed)
Today we want to speak about the definition of youth work that is most accepted in Australia.
In Australia we have been debating the core work of youth workers for decades. The earliest clear definition of youth work as a distinct industry came through the Jasper Declaration 1977.
The most current definition used within Australia is from the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition 2013. After a consultation that brought together thoughts from all over Australia a whole day was devoted to defining youth work in Australia at the Australian Youth Affairs Conference 2013. The best part of 100 youth workers argued and debated for the day to craft a definition for our sector. After the conference there were a few more consultations and the definition was set.
A caveat to this – There are many in Australia who do not agree with the definition. Particularly many from the North believed that the professionalisation debate was overshadowing good youth work. That the Southern and eastern states had hijacked the definition for their own. Funnily enough it is those states which have Degree programs.
Thought to end on
Youth work in Australia is still a contested site. The question of qualification is still at the forefront of the debate. From volunteer to PhD there are many who call themselves youth workers whether qualified or not. Another contested area is whether people are paid or not. There are thousands of people who volunteer to work with young people across Australia without who the youth sector would be considerably understaffed. Until we clarify as a sector what we mean by the term “Youth Work” we will be at the mercy of other definitions. We need to clarify professional paid youth work from volunteer work and other forms of youth support. This clarification does not need to reduce the amazing contribution of people to the sector, but it does need to focus our attentions.
Don’t forget to subscribe to the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast
Today’s podcast is a quick one to answer some of the questions people have about us as an organisation.