A sense of entitlement: youth work education in the 21st century.

Over the past few months I have spoken with over a dozen youth work educators from throughout the world about the calibre of youth work students coming through there courses. These course range from one year to three years and have people from all walks of life coming in droves to study. But one thing seems to have united the student body more than anything… A sense that they are entitled to become youth workers!
A little over a decade ago I decided to become a youth worker. It was an audacious plan for a young bloke who had never finished high school or anything else he had put his hand to. I had a reverence for the profession and an academic fear of my lecturers. I would have heated discussions and difficult conversations but when the lecturers called an end to those conversations that was the end. When they told me something needed to be done I did it or I failed (and I did fail once). Above all I knew that youth work was a profession that expected the best and if we didn’t like it we could bugger off.
As you can see I stayed and made it out with a degree.
All the youth work educators I have spoken with have told me that there are some students who still hold the reverence for the profession and the educators however more than ever before there is a sense of entitlement in new students. They seem to believe that getting their qualification is a foregone conclusion and the teachers are just in the way of them entering the sector. This feeling has been reiterated by the numerous organisations I place students in to gain experience. The organisations are seeing lazy, unprofessional and generally unworthy people coming through. What has gone wrong?
Could it be that youth work is seen as an easy ride? That people see youth workers as those who cruise through with no need for excellence? Has the free market made youth work for the lowest bidder attractive to those with no hope and no reason to work? Or perhaps it is that youth work education which aims at the lowest common denominator has finally found it.
We are in trouble! We need to bring back a level of respect for our profession. We need to see excellence. We need quality over quantity. We need to be graduating youth workers who want to be in the field because they are passionate and qualified. We need youth workers with a reverence for the work.

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Aaron Garth

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, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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