Podcast 008: How do I become a youth worker?

Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast

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:

  1. How do I become a youth worker?Why do you want to become a youth worker?
  2. Understand your values
  3. Know what type of youth work you want to do
  4. Volunteer
  5. Read
  6. Go to training
  7. Network
  8. Get an education
  9. Make the most of placement opportunities
  10. 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.

Career Development

Podcast Episode 007: Career Development

Career Development

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.

Career Development

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:

www.jobseeker.org.au

www.ethicaljobs.com.au

www.seek.com.au

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).

Conclusion

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?

Podcast 006: What is Youth Work Part Two

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)

What is Youth Work?

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

 

How do I become a youth worker: Start here.

Become a youth workerI want to become a youth worker

Over the years I have had hundreds of people speak to me, email me, message me on Facebook even get their parents to reach out with the basic intent of asking 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 post 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 great youth worker.

Its a process to become a youth worker, whether your just dipping your toe in the water to see if you want to take it up as a career or you have applied for your first job these steps will help you to make the best go of a long career in youth work. If you are able to address all of these steps then you will be in a fantastic position to land a job and last the distance. One of the main reasons there is such a high turnover in the youth sector is that people do not go into it with their eyes wide open. They are passionate and excited, but passion and excitement will only take you so far. You need a solid foundation from which to begin or as the statement goes ‘your house will get washed away’.

[Tweet “Can you answer, “why do you want to become a youth worker?”.”]

Why do you want to become a youth worker?

The first and probably most important question you need to be able to answer is why you want to become a youth worker. This question is the first I ask when interviewing people for youth work positions. A version of it was the first I asked when getting volunteers. It is the most discerning question for a long future in youth work. If you do not have an answer as to why you want to be a youth worker STOP right now and work on it. Before you do anything else towards becoming a youth worker get this right in your head.

Here are a few answers to steer away from.

  • “I just really love kids”.
  • “I have had a lot of trouble in my own life”
  • “I have coached kids and I think I can do this easily”
  • “Those kids just need someone to guide them”
  • “I can keep them on the straight and narrow”
  • “I’m a parent of teens, so I understand young people”

If your answer to the youth work question is something along these lines you need to do a lot of work on yourself first. Whenever I hear one of these answers my skin literally crawls. for one reason or another broken people who look for closure to their own inadequacies seem to drift towards youth work. People who haven’t dealt with their own demons before wanting to work with young people are always dangerous. The other side to this is people who think anyone can do youth work. Its not that hard. I coach a team two hours a week. I have a teenager who I see for a few hours a day. Surely its not that hard to do youth work.

These people show a few inadequacies that lead myself and others to point them away. Firstly, they lack a depth of personal insight. Secondly, their view of working with young people is severely limited. Finally, their focus is on themselves not on the young people they seemingly want to serve. If you truly want to be a youth worker it is a path of walking along side young people. It is not a time for your own issues to haunt you. It is about providing the support young people need to reach their goals.

If your answer to the youth work question is that you want to see young people supported by people who care and are well trained. If you want to see young people reach their potential. See a world where young people are seen and dealt with justly. Then you might have what it takes to become a youth worker.

Understand your values

What makes you tick? What gets under your skin? What makes you get up out of bed on a dreary day when you feel awful? Having a solid understanding of your values is core to how you will function as a youth worker. There will be days as a youth worker that will stretch you to your limits. Days when your young people disappoint, when funding bodies take your program funds, when suicide visits your doorstep and when the worst of humanity is all around. What will you do then?

You need to understand from the outset that the mountaintop experiences are rare. Youth work is hard work. You need to know what will tip you over the edge. You also need to know what will keep you going in those tough times. Your vales are what anchor you to your mission. If that mission is to support young people you need to be fully aware of your values and how they will bring you down and build you up.

If you need a prompt try the Core Values Audit.

Core Values Audit

What type of youth work do you want to do?

Youth work is one of the most amazingly diverse professions. Anywhere and everywhere you can imagine a young person there is a subsequent role for a youth worker. From sports and recreation to street outreach to education there are roles galore. They may have differing names but the overall role has similar points of focus. Do you want to become a youth worker in the justice system or with homeless young people? What about young people with drug issues or mental health concerns? For local government or a not for profit? Perhaps you would even work in a religious organisation.

The types of roles available need to fit your values and your reason for entering the sector. If you want to work with homeless young people think of the roles where you will come across young homeless people e.g. housing, health, drug and alcohol, family counselling or perhaps even street outreach. It is worth taking your time and searching the job boards to see what is out there before you become a youth worker.

Volunteer first

colourful-volunteer-vectorOnce you have the above sorted out its time to volunteer. Volunteering provides youth opportunity to understand the area you want to work in and see if it is really for you. Get to know the policies and procedures. Start building a network. Get some runs on the board. Begin to work with young people under supervision.

Many youth services have a set process for recruiting volunteers that is coordinated by a volunteer manager. You may be asked to send a letter and your resume or to fill in an application form, then be asked to attend an informal interview.  Some youth services run information sessions at set times during the year as first step for new volunteers. These organisations will also check your backgrounds by conducting a reference check, working with children checks and police checks.

Your volunteerism will always look good when you seek to get educated in youth work, when you seek placements and ultimately when you seek a career.

Read something

Every year more and more quality youth work texts are being published. Journal articles published by reputable academics and front line practitioners are available online. Blogging has brought the best and brightest to the masses. There is no excuse for not reading about youth work. It is at the core of all great youth workers that they read with passion. They read everything they can on the topic.

If you need a starting point read “Pedagogy of the oppressed by Paulo Freire” Advancing Youth Work edited by Dana Fusco” and “Youth work ethics by Howard Sercombe”. These three books will give you a good beginning to think about the current and future opportunities within the youth services sector. Read a journal article or two or more. Read the Journal “Youth and Policy” as a great starting point. Read a blog. Just read about youth work. It will all help to frame your future.

Get some training

On your journey to become a youth worker you need to look at some training. You need to get your first aid certificate. Youth mental health first aid is also a really important piece of training to have. Go to everything you possibly can that will provide you with some knowledge on how to work with young people. Get on every mailing list that will provide you with up to date training. Your peak bodies are a good start. Make sure it is reputable training and is well respected in the sector.

Here are a list of the first trainings we believe all youth workers need to have:

  • First aid
  • Youth Mental Health First Aid
  • Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST)
  • Introduction to drug and alcohol
  • DISC

Network

One of the main differences between a good youth worker and a great youth worker is their ability to get things done in a timely manner for the young people they support. Whether it is helping them find work, get a medical check up, enter a rehab facility or any other thing we do being able to refer them on to other agencies and have them picked up by those agencies is key to great youth work. To do this you need an exceptional network. You need to know all the key youth workers in your local area as well as those in your area of practice.
Peak bodies are a great place to build this network. Through attending training and meetings you will start to build the wide network that will help you in years to come. If you stay in the sector long enough you will get to know many of they key players… Theres not that many. Also, if you are not on Linkedin.com you need to be. It is the most used professional networking tool available. If you need somewhere to start add me on LinkedIn.

Get an education

Youth work education is ever growing and developing. From one year Certificates and Diplomas to three year Bachelor degrees and even higher still Masters and PhDs. As youth work becomes more professional so to is it more important to gain qualifications. At Ultimate Youth Worker we believe that all youth workers should aspire to be highly qualified. In Australia this means looking to three year Degree programs instead of one year Diplomas. Start with the short courses if you must but aspire to more.

A good education program teaches you not only how to do youth work but asks you to think about why you do it. They will make you reflect critically on how and why we serve young people. They will stretch you through reading and challenge you through assessment and in the end you will have knowledge and wisdom to use it. Check out who the lecturers are before you sign up to see if they have experience and if they have been published.

Make the most of your placements

When you finally start studying youth work you will have to embark on some sort of placement activity. It is often a harrowing experience and one which will stretch you significantly. Make the most out of it. If you can choose an area you are interested in. If not try to get something that aligns with where you see yourself working. In my experience well over 50% of students gain work from their placements. Treat it as the most extended job interview you will ever do. Ask heaps of questions, be a sponge. Take the initiative and try your best. Most of all gain as much knowledge of the practice area as you can.

Never stop learning

This should be self explanatory. If you think you know it all it is time to leave the sector. Read every week. Attend events and conferences. Study and attend training. Never stop learning. I have been a youth worker for 15 years. I know a fair bit, I impart that knowledge here and when I lecture. I still take every opportunity to meet with colleagues and learn something new. It is the only way to stay current and relevant in a sector which changes so frequently.


So that’s it. How easy is it to become a youth worker. All you have to do is:

  1. How do I become a youth worker?Why do you want to become a youth worker?
  2. Understand your values
  3. Know what type of youth work you want to do
  4. Volunteer
  5. Read
  6. Go to training
  7. Network
  8. Get an education
  9. Make the most of placement opportunities
  10. 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. Do you think we missed anything??? Let us know what we need to add by emailing us.

If you want to know more about youth work sign up to our newsletter below. 

BREXIT and youth work

Brexit text with British and Eu flags illustration

Brexit has come

So last week saw Britain vote to leave the European Union. The Brexit referendum saw an unprecedented youth voice get quashed by the roar of the elderly seeking a return to a Great Britain of old and Baby Boomers who are worried that their pensions are being sent oversees. Throughout the campaigns the fear mongering was phenomenal. From concerns about refugees and financial performance to the beliefs of politicians every opportunity has been taken to spread fear in the Empire.  The most concerning issue from this whole ordeal was how easily this happened.

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32CB754C00000578-0-The_polling_data_showed_big_differences_between_how_different_ag-m-11_1459672827371Almost half of the population of the United Kingdom either didn’t vote or were unable to vote in the referendum. Many of those who were unable to vote were young people and refugees. The very people that the Brexit vote will affect the most. Of those who did vote, a significant proportion of of those who wanted to remain in the European Union were young people. This begs questions for youth workers, not just in the United Kingdom but throughout the world… When will we listen to young people? What does this mean for youth support services? What opportunities will avail themselves to young people and what will they lose? These questions among many others have been the focus of discussion by many of recent days.

A few thoughts from an Aussie whose family was banished to this great south land from the cold and dreary shores of England:

  • A country which has built itself on a nationalist framework will always struggle to let it go and play well with others. It was inevitable that Britain would leave the EU. Sadly until the voice of those who remember the height of British nationalism are silenced the generations will be stuck in the past.
  • The push of Neoliberalism will always seek to see splintered economies where some will prosper and most will eek out a meager existence. The mere existence of a Union is an afront to those seeking freedom in trade.
  • Young people have always been pawns to the will of the old. Young people are not listened to and do not have a strong enough platform from which to change this. As youth workers we spend our careers trying to amend this.
  • We live in a society which looks at the here and now. The future is of little consequence. Climate change, Economics, social breakdown and corruption all come from wanting a better now rather than a better future. We have more food than ever before and yet more poverty. We have more medical technology and yet die from preventable disease. Our now is more important too us.
  • Young people will always have to deal with the rubbish left by the old until there is a revolution. When power is held by one group over another there will never be freedom. Power must be distributed equally amongst all. Young people are under the power of those who are older, but that will only last until young people feel slighted enough to rise up. Better to share than be over ruled.

The future is now uncertain for Britain and more widely the European Union. Both sides of the debate believe they know what will happen and both will be certain in a few years. But one thing is certain, Young people believe their voice is not being heard. Brexit just proved it.

 

 

 

Why you should support external supervision

Over a career spanning 15 years I have seen some abysmal youth work management. For the most part it is a pure lack of training and support rather than some misguided sense of grandiosity which leads to this management. When times get tough a manager in this situation turns to their base behavioural types rather than working to understand their staff behavioural types. This crisis mentality leads to a crisis driven service which then creates a cycle of  pain and heartache for employees. In a crisis driven situation when your are struggling to keep your head above water you are probably doing more harm than good if you are providing internal supervision.

Unfortunately, due to funding constraints and government key performance indicators crisis has become the norm. Most internal supervisors arent trained to provide supervision and rarely have time to provide good supervision. (If you are an internal supervisor here are a few ideas that might help address this). If you are feeling the pinch as most managers are, then one area that can help you and your staff is getting good supervision. Supervision that looks out for more than just the tasks you have to complete to meet your KPI’s. Having an external supervisor supporting you and your staff is a great way to show neutrality and transparency.

External Supervision

External supervisors should have a solid record as a practitioner before they become supervisors and be known and respected in the youth services field. They should meet all eight criteria for external supervisors. Most of all they should understand your organisation. External supervisors cost a bit of money but the benefits they provide far outweigh the regular payments. They bring latest knowledge, morale and support to your staff and help your organisation retain their employees. External supervision is essential to staff retention and development.

Keeping motivation in youth work

Life is tough, and so is youth work. Keeping motivation can be difficult. From the outside most people only see the coffees, conversations and if everything goes well a young person who appears to be well rounded. What they don’t see is the hours of paperwork, the phone calls, the parent meetings, the heartache and tears. When all of this gets mixed together with the trauma our young people experience and the lack of structured support from our organisations we come up against vicarious trauma. When this happens it is really hard to stay motivated.

This content is for Ultimate Youth Worker Network (Monthly Membership) and Ultimate Youth Worker Network (Yearly membership) members only.
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Youth work and politics

Politics is great

One of my favourite questions for youth work students is how much they love politics. It asks them if one wall is ‘I hate politics with a fiery passion’ and the opposite wall is ‘I love everything about politics’ where do you stand on the continuum? Most students herd themselves down the ‘I hate politics end’, I have even had a few leave the room completely. Every now and then a few likely souls brave the tides and step towards their love. They show their comrades that politics is not to be feared or despaired over but embraced fully.

politics and youth workThe fact of the matter is that all youth work is political. Whether you are supporting an individual young person through an education program or you are advocating for hundreds at a symposium, all youth work is from a political framework, in the political system and funded because of political ideals. As youth workers we must have a strong understanding of the political sphere and the process that helps bring the decisions to the fore. We need to know the players and their political bent. We need to understand how to influence these decision makers and help them hear the voice of our young people.

Our profession is motivated to provide a world that listens to and embraces young people as equal citizens. This is a very political statement. It puts a flag in the ground that we will not give up. Sometimes it puts us politically against those in power. Sometimes our vision aligns. Either way our employment and our future is intrinsically linked to politics. Whether your a liberal leaning lefty or a right as rain conservative if you are a youth worker your work is politically challenging. You are more like a lobbyist than you think.

Whats your take on political youth work?

Youth work and your family

Family comes first

Over the past few weeks I have been reflecting on the pressures youth workers face because of the job. We have high rates of psychological distress, we deal daily with vicarious trauma, our jobs are often at the mercy of government whim and to top it of we work long crazy hours. This takes a massive toll on us as youth workers, unfortunately it also has ripple effects around us.

youth work family lifeI have seen a number of memes lately that have really got on my nerves. Mainly because they hit the bullseye. As youth workers and indeed human services workers in general we can become so focussed on the people we serve that we forget about the ones we love. Our partners, spouses and children forget what we look like as we spend every night out at meetings, running centres and programs. Our kids in particular feel the burden.

I have met many young people over my career who had parents who were youth workers. most turned out pretty ok. A number of them however had fallen off the rails. This detour through trouble often came because they felt abandoned by their parent for other young people. Often hearing about how the more troubled kids need their parents attention at the moment.

As a youth worker I have not been immune to this either. Studying, working weird and wonderful hours and being out at nights and weekends has been a part of my life for well over a decade. The final semester of my Masters degree I was working 80+ hours a week and was lucky if I saw my wife and children on a week night or more than a couple of hours on the weekend. As a family we knew this was only going to be for a season, yet the strain was clear.

A few weeks ago my family grew by two. Beautiful identical twin girls. This has made me slow down and reevaluate. Some things have taken a hiatus, some have been cut fully. One thing has been a clear reminder to me in this time, My family is the most important people in my life. When it comes to balance my family wins every time. If we put others young people before the needs of our own children what message does that convey to them. I know there will be times where for the short term we have to put our work first, but if our own children continue to lose out then they will become the clients of other youth workers down the track.

It is a cycle I intend to break. Being a professional means having thing work at home and at work. Will you join me? Put family time first n your calendar. Your family comes first.a