Podcast 011: What do we mean by profession

Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast

Podcast #011: What do we mean by profession

In todays podcast Aaron brings you into some of his research from his Honours thesis. The question of what we mean when we say youth work should be a profession is one that rarely gets asked in the youth work literature. The underlying assumption is that we all know what is meant by the term. However, if you ask five youth workers what they think it means you will get five different answers. The rank and file youth workers at the coal face have a very different idea of what a profession is than the academics who are writing about professionalising.

In todays podcast we are asked to think about what we mean by the term profession. We are initiated into the most common definition used by social welfare academics, that of the structural functionalists. This model is best framed in the work of Ernest Greenwood who claims that all professions have five attributes in common. We are asked to consider how these five attributes link to youth work identity and practice especially in the changing environment of the 21st century. Does this model still fit? Is it enough? Does youth work identity sit well with this model?


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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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ABCD and the youth work profession debate?

ABCD for Youth Work

Much of 2016 was horrible for the profession of youth work. Our funding was cut… yet again, more of our colleagues lost their jobs and still more left because of burnout. Much of our discussion of the profession of youth work has focussed on what we don’t have and what we aren’t yet. Aside from a few fledgling state based professional associations our move towards developing the profession of youth work has stalled. So what next? What is the next step for us in developing the profession of youth work in Australia? What can we learn from Asset Based Community Development?

Youth WorkTo begin with I think we need to re-evaluate where we are at and where we want to be. For the last few years we have rested on the academic work of he last decade to frame our arguments around professionalism. There has been a glaring omission in this research, the voice of the youth worker. For the most part the work on the development of professional youth work in Australia has been the purview of academics, peak bodies and industry groups. We need to hear what those on the front line want from a professional association. We also need to ask what this association would look like?

One framework that could help us to begin reframing the discussion is Asset Based Community Development (ABCD). Asset-based community development (ABCD) is a methodology for the sustainable development of communities based on their strengths and potentials. It involves assessing the resources, skills, and experience available in a community; organizing the community around issues that move its members into action; and then determining and taking appropriate action

ABCDLiberation is a key focus of youth work theory and is a focus we should consider in professionalising. Harvard University academic Rosabeth Moss Kanter says that when we do change to people, they experience it as violence, but when people do change to themselves, they experience it as liberation. There are currently three groups in the debate; those who are in favour of professionalising, those who are against professionalising and those who are apathetic to the whole debate. None of these groups are experiencing liberation.

We are a divided community. Partly this is due to the competitive nature of government funding, partly our qualification system and partly how our services are set up. We have become so entrenched in the deficits based funding models that we see our professional deficits. We have so brought into the minimum qualifications mentality and graduate so few postgrads that the notion of becoming  a highly educated profession is fascicle. We also have difficulty transitioning between statutory and non-government service provision. Honestly we focus more on our diversity than we do on the things that make youth work cohesive.

Its easy these days to focus on what is wrong in youth work. Like I said, its embedded in our way of thinking. We need to move as Cormac Russell states from, “whats wrong to whats strong” in our youth work community. What assets do we bring to the question of professionalising? What is our strength? How can we use our strengths to meet our agreed goals? We need to build our community. We need a clear goal for youth work as a profession. Perhaps ABCD can help us to develop these areas.

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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Take a step on a new journey toward 2020

Journey towards 2020

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” -Lao Tzu

As we journey toward 2020 there has been a lot of discussion about youth work as a dying vocation. Our numbers are dropping, we have less graduates and government funding is being slashed like never before. Lets be honest. We’ve had it pretty good over the last decade or so. But those glory days are over. We’ve been on a journey that has gotten really bumpy. Some have stumbled, others have fallen away, many are sweating it out hoping for green pastures again. The smart youth workers are taking a rest. We are checking the map. Looking at our supply situation. Reassessing our journey towards 2020.

Perhaps, the journey we were on has finished. Perhaps, our focus needs tweaking. We have focussed on education in the beginning, we moved to recreation  in the 70’s, in the 90’s we moved towards local government hoping to find our home and now… it looks like our journey is coming to its end. When your journey looks like its coming to an end and your left out in the wilderness its time to make a brew and plan a new journey. This is what many are starting to do across the world.

What youth work will look like #towards2020 is still up for grabs. One thing is for sure we need to stop looking at the past is a vain hope that it will come back to us. We need a new pedagogy, a new praxis and a new… practice framework. As a profession we keep looking to other professions such as social work, psychology and nursing to guide our journey. But, they are all struggling too. We need to plan a new journey toward 2020.

What do you think the first step will look like?

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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keep great youth workers

9 ways to keep great youth workers

keep great youth workersHow do you keep great youth workers?

Youth work is one of the most difficult professions around. You tend to work with some very difficult clients who are generally not showing their best side. Managers know this, yet it still boggles my mind how often I have heard managers complaining about their lack of ability to keep great youth workers. The kicker is that they really do have something considerable to complain about.

There isn’t much more costly or disruptive as your best people walking out the door. The managers I have spoken with over the years tend to blame their turnover problems on everything under the sun, but with turnover in excess of 21% across the sector we need to face some hard truths.

Here are nine very simple things every team leader and manager can do to make sure they retain the very best youth workers in their organisation.

Don’t overwork people

The one thing that has become more obvious to me over the years is that the work of youth work has become a lot harder. We are dealing with more trauma, more responsibility and more paperwork than ever before. Governments have decreased funding while increasing our KPI’s. The stress factors have risen significantly. Our people are already working hard, so don’t add to the work load unnecessarily.

If we add to the workload significantly it can be counterproductive to the goal. You can only work them so long until they leave for better pastures. An increase in position or pay can help at least in the short term… however, in our experience this has a six month shelf life.

Recognise and reward

If managers could only do one thing to minimise retention issues and keep great youth workers this might be the one thing. A pat on the back goes a very long way. So do the words ‘well done’. Recognise great staff everywhere. in meetings, to donors, to the board, throughout the sector. Reward them where you can too. This may cost money… but its a lot less than having to hire new staff or deal with an employee who leaves because of psychological distress. Give a great worker an extra week of holidays. A night out for them and their special person. Buy them a book. Pay for course fees. Write them a card. The point is just do something.

Care about your employees

Every management role I have ever held hinged on the people who worked for me. I knew my successes were only able to come to fruition if they were fully committed to me and the mission. The best way for this to happen is to get to know your staff. Not just the professional but the personal too. I knew my staffs partners, children, birthdays, work anniversaries, work history, courses they had done, their illnesses and pains as well as their hopes and dreams. I would spend a minimum of half an hour one on one with my team and let them know I was there to bat for them. Knowing your staff is the key to care.

Hire and promote the right people

Hiring the right people is the most important part of a managers job. Getting the right person to fit the team, the organisational mission and then expecting them to have the right skill set means doing a good job at recruitment. Many of the interviews I have had lasted less than 30 minutes and many of the youth workers I speak with would say the same. It is not nearly enough. Hiring is the single most difficult task a manager has to learn to do if they want to keep great youth workers. Working with duds is a major demotivator for those stuck working alongside them. Ultimate Youth Workers want to work with equally awesome people. Oh, and promoting a dud is even more a slap in the face. Get the right people and they will stay.

Help people pursue their passionskeep great youth workers

The most talented youth workers are passionate people. Providing opportunities for them to pursue their passions improves their productivity and job satisfaction. Support them to develop their passion. Help with fundraisers, hook them up with networks, give them the opportunity to expand their horizon.  It will not only fill their passion but will reap exponential productivity time and brownie points for the tough times.

Further develop peoples skills

When we speak to youth workers and their managers we are appalled at the minimal amount of money and time spent developing staff. If you want to keep your best people you have to invest in them. At the very least you need to listen to your youth workers and provide them with feedback. It is the role of every manager to  educate their staff, find areas to develop in them. Read, do webinars, join peak bodies, further your education and become better.

Engage their creativity

You hired the best people, right? Then why do you want to hold them back and stick them in a box.  These amazing youth workers want to change the world and see everything they touch turn to gold. Why would you want to squash this? Let them off the leash a little. Expect reports but let them do things in their way. Guide and challenge your staff but let them use their talent and their skills to do the job you hired them for in the first place.

Challenge youth workers intellectually

This comes as a surprise to many people but youth workers are thought workers. We think a lot. Its a mentally draining job. When I used to push my students they would bemoan my making them think more… But in the field they are the ones who others look too. If you don’t make your great staff think and reflect they will most definitely get bored. If they get bored you won’t be able to keep great youth workers. If you haven’t done a degree yet, Check this one out.

Love them all!

If you don’t love your staff they will know it. If you love one or two, the others will know it. If you don’t love your team you won’t go the extra mile for them. Managers who go the extra mile will always keep the best staff. Love, Love Love!

 

This post was based off an article by Dr travis Bradberry on HuffingtonPost

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: The professional relationship

I have been rereading “Youth Work Ethics” by Professor Howard Sercombe lately. I forgot how good a read it is. Clear, concise and straight to the point. What got me was a really interesting discussion of professions being a relationship. Particularly, that by building this professional relationship we build trust in our clients allowing them to be vulnerable in our presence. Sercombe states, “Youth work creates spaces within which that can happen well, and walks with young people through the process of it happening“.

DSCF0809

Professional relationship at its best

As a youth worker I have been involved in the discussion of professionalising our sector for over a decade. All too often the focus of professionalising is setting us apart from our clients. It is putting in rules and policies which hold them at arms length from us. Other ‘professions’ such as psychology and nursing are often held up as benchmarks because of this ‘professional distance’ from their clients. We look to them and attempt to emulate their style because we live in a notion of professionalism which is rooted in the sociological view of professions from the 1950’s. However, many youth workers around the world struggle with this as it further separates us from our clients. It empowers us and further oppresses them.

If we as a fledgling profession decide to follow in the tired old footsteps of professions gone before us we will continue to further push our clients away. This goes completely against the grain of our core values. Youth work is a relational profession! Building professional relationship is at the core of all our work. As Sercombe says, “It is a partnership within that space – a covenant… in which youth worker and young person work together to heal hurts, to repair damage, to grow into responsibility, and to promote new ways of being“.

This is the joy I have when I think about our profession. We are partners in the journey with our young people. We walk alongside them in joy and sadness, lows and highs. Looking towards a bright new day. That is a professional relationship!

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 are you a youth worker?

This week sees the launch of National Youth Week here in Australia. It is about this time every year that I spend some time reflecting on why I am a youth worker. Seeing young people reach their full potential, many against great odds always makes me excited to see youth work at its best. 

When I was younger it was only the support and guidance of a couple of great youth workers that stopped my path towards Jail or death. I saw the worst and best of myself unfold due to their gentle ministering and was given a picture of what life could be like on the other side of my pain and strife. I saw that the life I was surrounded by was not necessarily the life that I had to live for the rest of my days.

It is this sense, that there is more to life than meets the eye, that I hope to impart upon the young people I work with. To help them see past the next five minutes of their existence to a future that glows and excites. This is why I am a youth worker. Why are you?

Leave us a comment 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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Youth work professionalisation will hurt 70% of our colleagues

Back on 2008 our Executive Director created these videos as a short project for his Bachelor. The question of professionalisation in the youth sector has been one which sets a game of who is in and who is out. This posed great questions as many of the best youth workers in the sector have limited or no qualifications.
Check out these videos and let us know what you think.

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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Ongoing professional development: Its all about your budget.

I have been in a number of agencies throughout my youth services career and only one of them had a written down budget for youth work professional development. In this organisation I had one of the largest budgets for professional development I had ever had… $1000. However in most organisations I worked in a professional development budget was at best ad hoc and at worse non-existent. 

I have heard of a number of ways to divide up a professional development budget and to tell you the truth I have not put much credence in most of them. How long you have been in the organisation? Your role requirements? Your agencies needs? None of them make any sense when you are talking about longevity in the field. When you want to develop workers to sustain your organisation and the sector you have to think outside the box, and for most organisations that means spending money.

In the mining industry here in Australia some of the best mines realised that they were losing workers because they had no reason to stay. The money was good, The work wasn’t to hard but still they were losing staff… Until they started putting money in the right place. They set up great internet, provided training opportunities and expected staff to develop themselves through courses. Everything from first aid to business development. It was open to the newest of staff and the long tremors. From the lowest paid to the highest paid. The expectation was that you did something.

At Ultimate Youth Worker we would love to offer an unlimited budget for professional development but like every youth organisation we have to balance our budget too. In our case we devote 3% of our yearly budget for staffing to professional development. If you earn $50,000 you have a professional development budget of $1,500. We ask our staff to develop a professional development plan that has some things for us as an organisation and some areas that they want to work on. If they want to work on something that is outside the purview of the work we do we ask them to demonstrate how it would support the work we do in the future. If it would support us or the sectors development we are happy to provide the finances within the 3%. We also offer employees further development above the 3% as needed however as a minimum that 3% is always in our budget.

What does your organisation do? Perhaps you can start providing a guarantee for your employees!  

Leave us a comment 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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Guest post on drownthenoise.com

Our guest post is being published on drownthenoise.com today – it’s an open look at the idea of vocation in youth work. Feel free to post in the comments about how witty, insightful and amazing it is!!!

If you’ve come to Ultimate Youth Worker after already reading the post on drownthenoise.com  – WELCOME!!! We hope you found it witty, insightful and amazing too!

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Once again, thanks for visiting Ultimate Youth Worker! We hope you find some useful stuff on our blog. If you know any youth workers or youth pastors, we’d love for you to tell them about us – each week we provide a new post so keep on coming for more thoughts on 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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The stupidity of calling youth work science will limit our effectiveness!

If I hear another person talk about the science behind youth work or the best-practice “research” that has been done I will scream. This pervasive discourse of youth work through a scientific lens, to the detriment of practice wisdom and individuality, will lead to the destruction of our sectors most central ideologies. 

Putting people in comfortable boxes has never been central to the work of a youth worker, until recently. To have clear diagnoses, a cookie cutter support plan and a “best-practice” set of interventions is the way of the medical, psychological and scientific sectors. There has been a lot written about the divide between the art and science of youth work with much more over the past decade focusing on the scientific. This does not take into account the the complexities that coalface youth workers deal with on a daily basis. “Becoming a professional when one’s discipline is people/young people requires more than technical knowledge; it requires a way of being that is relational, emergent, flexible, dialogic, participatory, and contextualised (Fusco 2013).

Youth work is a flexible, fluid profession. We have historically steered clear of generalising how we work with individuals as it limits our fluidity. We seek to support young people in their context with their individual needs. When we begin to use the frameworks of economic rationalism and the sciences to frame our practice we begin to see people view our practice wisdom and philosophy as weak hokum. Where science seeks fact and answers to problems, we seek to delve into the human condition through questions and journeying with our young people.

There is no doubt that the scientific has bolstered youth work. What we know of brain and psychosocial development has become integrated into our practice kitbag. But, there is a big difference between using the knowledge of a profession and subscribing to its framework and philosophy. If we allow governmental managerialism and our own inadequacies to force us to give up what makes us unique we will regret it.

Let us know your thoughts. Leave us a comment.

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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