Sociological Imagination

Sociological Imagination: Sociology

Sociological Imagination

One of the underpinning theoretical frameworks which guides the practices of youth work is that of Sociology. It helps us to look more deeply at the world our young people live, work and play within. One of the key thoughts within Sociology is the sociological imagination. The ability to look at an issue from an individual and social perspective. So lets find out more about this key framework.

C. Wright MILLS

Sociological ImaginationAmerican Philosopher and Sociologist, Charles Wright Mills was a Professor of Sociology at Columbia University from 1946 until his death in 1962, aged 45. Mills, a native Texan, was published widely throughout his career in popular and intellectual journals, and is a proponent of the conflict perspective within sociological thought. Mills was concerned with the responsibilities of intellectuals in post-World War Two society, and advocated public and political engagement over disinterested observation.

Mills sociological work was heavily influenced by eminent German conflict theorists and fathers of sociology Karl Marx and Max Weber.

Mills is remembered for several books, among them ‘The Power Elite’, which introduced that term and describes the relationships and class alliances among the U.S. political, military, and economic elites; ‘White Collar’, on the American middle class; and ‘The Sociological Imagination’, where Mills presents a model of analysis for the interdependence of subjective experiences within a person’s biography, the general social structure and historical development.

Overview

The Sociological ImaginationIn 1959 one of the most important texts in sociological work was published by Oxford University Press. The book by American Sociologist C. Wright Mills “The Sociological Imagination” changed the landscape of sociological thought and research forever.

Mills conveyed that the core undertaking for sociology as a discipline and sociologists particularly was to discover and express the connections between the particular social environments of individuals (also known as “milieu”) and the wider social and historical forces in which they are embroiled. This approach challenges the structural functionalist approach to Sociology, as it opens new positions for the individual to occupy with regard to the larger social structure. Individual function that reproduces larger social structure is only one of many possible roles, and is not necessarily the most important. In Mills own words, “The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society. That’s its task and its promise”.

In ‘The Sociological Imagination’, Mills endeavored to reconcile two abstract conceptions of social reality—the “individual” and “society”—and thereby confronted the dominant sociological discourse of functionalism. In essence he asked where the convergence point is between an individual’s ‘personal troubles’ and societies ‘public issues’.

Private issues

Mill work on the sociological imagination looked at the dominant discourse of individuality and sought to understand the framework of an individual’s ‘personal troubles’. These private issues which are said to have nothing to do with the rest of society such as what you eat, who you vote for, which religion you follow or what type of job you have. For Mills these private issues were not just the sole purview of the individual, but a complex system of interweaving thought and ideas from everywhere.

Public issues

This interweaving system is what Mills coined as public issues. Why is it that individuals in poor communities seem to have children who follow in the same footsteps as their parents? Mills argues that it has little to do with the individual’s choices and much more to do with the systems and the power of the elites which guide the forces around the individual. There is an intricate relationship between the individual and society.

Examples

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Ultimate in the news: Whats on in 2017

Hey all,

Just a quick post this week to let you know about a few things going on in 2017.

2017First, 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.

Take care.

Aaron

 

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Ultimate Youth Worker in to 2017

Portrait7So 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.

Aaron

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Podcast 005: Who is Ultimate Youth Worker?

005-Who-is-Ultimate-Youth-WToday’s podcast is a quick one to answer some of the questions people have about us as an organisation.

 

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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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. 

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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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.

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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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?

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Training: The next evolution in Ultimate Youth Worker

Training for the future

Well the world turns and we are still kicking. Funding cuts hurt us as an organisation as you know. We decided that that was not ideal. We rely on fee for service work to keep going. We have most often focused on supervision sessions to meet our funding needs. Occasionally we would run a seminar or do some training but it was limited. Over the past few months we have invested into our own training and have decided that we will focus on providing training to youth workers for a little while.

Between now and the end of 2016 we will run four specific training programs:

  • Youth Mental Health First Aid
  • Introduction to Drug and Alcohol
  • Mandatory Reporting and Duty of Care
  • Intentional Self Care for Career Longevity

YMHFA TrainingThis is a new venture for us to undertake however we were very aware of the poor training that was available in the sector. We believe that if dedicated youth workers are paying good money they should get exceptional training. Our staff have been trained by Mental Health First Aid Australia to deliver the world renowned Youth Mental Health First Aid course. Two days of dedicated training for supporting young people experiencing mental health issues.

Our staff have also created three exceptional courses and seminars to support youth workers specifically. Introduction to Drug and Alcohol is a two day course design to help youth workers support young people who are experimenting with or abusing substances. Using best practice and the most recent data this course is designed by our Executive Director a former youth rehabilitation facility manager. Mandatory Reporting and Duty of Care is a half day seminar which supports youth workers to know their responsibilities under new legislation in Victoria. With public scrutiny at an all time high it is our responsibility to know our responsibilities for protecting young people to the highest standards. Intentional Self-Care for Career Longevity is a one day course which provides participants with the skills and knowledge to develop a self care plan and maintain their own self care and career development.

We will run these courses through a partnership with Eastern College Australia at their training facility in Mulgrave. We can also come to you and run any or all of these courses in your workplace.

To find out more about these courses or to register to attend click on the events tab above.

 If your in Melbourne download our Professional Development Calendar and put it up at work!!!

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast – 003 Group Work

Group Work

Group work is one of the most rewarding and exciting parts of our job as youth workers. It comes in many forms and it looks different in every context it is used in. Until the 1950’s however, it was a relatively unheard of area of study. Today there are thousands of articles, books and training courses with different ideas on the who, how, what and why of working with groups. With so many different theories and styles it can also make group work one of the scariest parts of our job.

Whether you are running a group in a school, church, drug rehab, practically anywhere the rules are the same. But if you don’t know the rules groups can be extremely daunting. Knowing the rules of group work will help us as youth workers provide the best facilitation possible. It also lets us help our young people to settle in to the roles that suit them and challenge them to step into new ones.

Group work is our bread and butter as youth workers. We don’t necessarily do one on one counselling. We don’t all run programs. But it is likely that we have all run a group.

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Youth work students becoming youth work staff

The future of a youth work student.

Last week was youth work week. A time for us to reflect as a profession on how awesome we are and how we change the lives of young people. I think we did it pretty well this year… But I hope next year we do it bigger and louder. But enough about how awesome we are now. I was reflecting today that we are coming to the end of another year and that soon in Australia there will be close to 1000 youth work students graduating a Certificate IV, Diploma or Degree in youth work. November see the end of most courses and with it a vast array of new talent added to the pool.

As staff in the field we need to embrace these newbies with arms outstretched and hearts wide open. The likelihood is that half of them will not last a year because of the trauma, lack of support and meagre pay conditions. The sad fact is that we are losing such talent and passion because of things which can be managed and fixed. We know why people leave the sector. It has been documented extensively, spoken about at conferences and plans have been made… we just haven’t done anything to address it.

consulting-1

With this in mind here are our top 5 ways you can support a youth work student to succeed as a youth worker in your agency:

  1. Get to know them. This seems pretty straight forward for most of us, but it is the number one reason we hear over and over again in supervision sessions for conflict in the workplace. Managers, get to know your staff on a personal level as well as professionally. Find out what makes them tick, about their family and their aspirations for the future. If you are a colleague, invite them out for a drink, have peer supervision sessions, mentor them, perhaps you could even take them under your wing and support them for the first month or two.
  2. Give them a good orientation. There is no amount of leg work you can do later in their work than to give them a good orientation. Make sure they understand their role, other peoples roles, where the bathrooms are, the best place for coffee, how to work the photocopier, emergency procedures, the person to call if they lose their keys… everything you can think of. Make sure they take notes too. Its a pain in the butt and a massive amount of knowledge to take on board, but it will save you heaps in the long run.
  3. Allow them time to ask questions. Im sure you can remember starting a new job, I know I can. I had heaps of questions and they came in fits and spurts. Sometimes one question a day, other times one question a minute. Allow space in your schedule and the teams schedule for this to happen.
  4. Recognise limitations. We all want someone who can start a role on the run. The fact is even the best staff member will need to start slowly. recognise that they will not know how to do the job in the way your organisation wants it done straight away. They will not know how to use your systems, your resources or your language. This comes with time and support. Give them this. Remember they are new.
  5. Celebrate the newbie. Have a bit of a party at the end of the week. Make a fuss over them to the team and the wider organisation. Write a bit in the staff newsletter. Congratulate them for lasting the distance through interviews, checks and their first day. Make sure everyone knows their name!

This holds true for those new graduates that will be starting in your organisation soon. However, it also holds true for any new hire. Provide them with support, care and encouragement from the start and you will have amazing workers supporting your young people.

Leave a comment below if you can think of any other ways to support new youth work student graduates.

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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