Alternative career

Alternative career and Ultimate Youth Workers

Alternative career

Alternative Career Choices

Today marks seven years of Ultimate Youth Worker. Our birthday if you like. During this time I always like to gain some perspective on life, business and youth work in general. It is always an interesting time of introspection for an extrovert like me. I have to dig in to my heart and soul, carve away all the minutia and examine my life as fully as I can. My reflection has led me to think about my alternative career.

Last week I took to the bush. It is a place of peace for me and it helps me to get into a space of reflection. I only took the very basics with me. This isn’t a time of luxury but more of a monastic experience. Alone in the wilderness I thought of all that has been achieved by Ultimate Youth Worker over the past year. The training we have run, the people we have supervised and coached, the opportunities and the failures. In my reflection I wondered if the work we are doing had met needs of the sector. I wondered if the youth sector in Australia needs an organisation like ours.

Alternative careersI was also wondering if I am in the right place as the leader of this organisation. I asked myself a question that I am often asked, ‘if you weren’t a youth worker, what would you be?’. In my solitude I thought of the early days of my youth work career on camps and day trips. As a young man I thought my career was going to be in the military. I trained in land navigation, hiking and a bunch of other skills for that career. These skills all came in handy during those early years. Perhaps I could be a wilderness guide??? I love the outdoors and the solitude it provides. There is something primal about being alone in the bush that brings you to a place of reflection. I learnt many skills in those early days which I still use today. Leadership. Self-reliance. Team work.

Alternative careerToday, I find myself working on my car. I had to change my battery as it was dead. I looked at the engine bay and had a moment where I thought I should just call roadside assistance to have them do it. Then I reflected on my first career choice. You see, before I became a youth worker I was a mechanic apprentice. I loved cars, particularly Ford V8’s, and it seemed like I could bring my passion for cars together with a means of making money. I didn’t last very long. I loved working on cars, I hated working to such short timeframes as people wanting their cars back in an hour.

As a youth worker I have used my former career choices many times over. I have run more camps and day trips than I care to remember. I have hiked thousands of kilometres and used all my skills in bushcraft and survival. I have fixed cars on the side of the road between sessions. I have even helped people get their keys out of cars they had locked them in. I have used my knowledge to engage young people and build conversations.

I currently find myself out of direct practice and in the space of education. Spending my time between educating new student youth workers and training youth workers in the field. Being an educator is an alternative career than where I saw myself going. But, it is where I know I am meant to be. My other career options have all led me to where I am today. The skills and knowledge I have gained over the years have led to the way I educate newbie youth workers and support seasoned veterans.


Seven years ago I embarked on an alternative career by building Ultimate Youth Worker. Becoming a small business owner in the human service industry is not what I had been educated to do, but it was what I felt led to do. Over that time we have had ups and downs. We almost closed in 2014 as the sector was hit with massive budget cuts. Hired our first staff member in 2017. Overall, we have tried to do things differently. Much of this drive has come from learnings from alternative careers.

So on this our birthday I want to recommit to you all. While this project was an alternative career seven years ago, it is now my main focus. I want to see a sector that is well supported. I want youth workers who feel that they can get the support they need to be the best. I want to help you all to become Ultimate Youth Workers.

As we move in to our eighth year of serving youth workers we are going to be focusing on four areas. Mental health, Self Care, Training and Professional Youth Work. You will see our podcasts focus on these areas. We will begin to create more videos to help  you in these four areas. Our products and services will fall into those four categories as well. These four areas have become our most read posts and our most listened to podcasts so it is our

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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Employment

Youth workers need employment

Youth work employment

Recently, a member of the Ultimate Youth Worker community and I had a great time of discussion after a misunderstanding. We spoke of how many in the community will be feeling the sting of the free market economy and austerity measures. That many youth workers are finding themselves out of work in the current political climate. We spoke of the need for youth workers to have gainful employment and it got me thinking about a few things.

Employment in Australia:

The average wage of a youth worker in Australia is $33k- $63k which is below the average wage in Australia of $60,892. We all know that social services work doesn’t pay a lot, but unless you are at the top end of the pay scale you are earning significantly less than the average employed Australian. Oh, and thats based on full-time employment.

Around 49,600 people are currently employed as Youth Workers in Australia. This includes those with many different job titles. This is set to increase to 62,800 people by 2019, according to the Department of Employment. So, youth work is a growing industry.

Youth work, much like the rest of the social sector, is very female dominated with 25.6% of Youth Workers being male and 74.3% female.

A large proportion of Australian Youth Workers have a Bachelor Degree qualification (32.6%) although this does not necessarily mean a degree in youth work. 56.9% have a diploma or less, and around 10.4% have post-graduate qualifications. What this tells us is that if you have postgraduate qualifications you are the top 10% of youth workers in Australia.

Professional youth work in Australia

There are a lot of youth workers in the sector who are part-time employees. However, in our experience the ones who are full-time employees are often those we would categorise as professional youth workers. These youth workers have a three year degree in youth work and are eligible for membership of a youth workers association. They have at least five years experience in the sector and have a solid network built up. These youth worker’s are rarely out of work unless they face adverse circumstances such as an organisation shutting down. When they are seeking employment they are usually on top of the recruiting pile.

Youth work is a profession which has begun to establish its place in the social services sector and youth workers have established themselves in core services (child protection, youth justice, local government). With all of this happening over the last couple of decades it is easy for youth workers to still feel like the new kid on the block. Youth work employment in Australia is strong, we shouldn’t believe otherwise.

The key take away for you reading this is get qualified. Minimum of a degree, but aim higher. Get experience, at least five years, even if it is part-time work. Five years appears to be the tipping point for people leaving the sector. Above all, build a wide network. If you only have experience in one small sliver of the youth sector you are always in danger of losing your job. If you have experience, understanding and networks across the sector you will never be at the mercy of austerity.


*The information provided on this page is from the Department of Employment’s Job Outlook website. All salary ranges are from Payscale. Where jobs are not exact matches, job areas have been used. This information is to be used as a guide only. 

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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Youth Work Degrees Australia

Youth Work Degrees Australia

Youth Work Degrees Australia

Youth Work Degrees Australia

Youth-Work-Degree-Australia

The height of professional youth work in Australia is the humble degree program. Three years of your life where you get to learn all the ins and outs of the profession of youth work in Australia. There are currently six youth work degrees in Australia, each with their own distinctive points.

If you are considering studying a youth work degree in Australia then you need to weigh up the pros and cons. A helpful first step is our podcast “How do I become a youth worker“. Another point to make is that all youth work degrees in Australia a regulated by the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency (TEQSA) which assures the quality of Australia’s higher education sector. All the courses have had to meet rigorous and exacting standards to be able to be endorsed including a review by industry experts and academics. So whichever course you choose, know that you are getting a comprehensive course which has been developed to meet the highest standards of education.

So here is a breakdown of the courses (in alphabetical order) which are available to you if you are after youth work degrees Australia:

Australian Catholic University

Australian Catholic University runs a Bachelor of Youth Work from their campus in Melbourne. This is what they say about the course:

Youth Work is an exciting and challenging career involving working for and with young people in a variety of fun and rewarding ways. The key thing that differentiates youth workers from other community service workers is that young people are their primary concern. Youth work acknowledges the social and cultural environments within which young people live and helps foster young people’s emotional and social development.

In addition to the core youth work units, students can choose between minors in counselling or sociology. You will receive valuable practical experience in working with young people, in addition to the theoretical insights and practical competencies needed for dealing with the needs, problems and aspirations of young people.

Find out more...

Eastern College Australia

Eastern College Australia runs a Bachelor of Applied Social Science (Youth Work) from their campus in Wantirna in Melbourne's Eastern Suburbs. This is what they say about the course:

Youth workers improve the life outcomes for young people. We encourage their personal and social development while helping them to become active citizens.

In our Bachelor of Applied Social Science (Youth Work), you will gain a strong foundation for working with young people. You will gain specialist knowledge to support young people experiencing difficulties from a trauma informed care perspective. To get you ready for a challenging and rewarding career you will spend 70 days on professional work placements.

Our degree is taught from a Christian worldview perspective, and is delivered by experts in the field of youth work. You will receive guidance from specialist youth workers and experienced sociologists, community development workers, social workers and other relevant areas. You will graduate with the knowledge, skills and experience to support young people as a reflective practitioner.

Find out more...

Edith Cowan University

Edith Cowan University runs a Bachelor of Youth Work from their campus in Joondalup,  Western Australia. This is what they say about the course:

Provides a comprehensive program of study in the essentials of youth work as an embedded practice within community work. The course includes specialist units in youth work, plus complementary studies in community work.

Students can choose complementary areas of study such as Aboriginal and Intercultural Studies, Addiction Studies, Community Work, Criminology, Psychology, Counselling, Visual Arts, Media and Communication, Events Management, and Outdoor Adventure.

Find out more...

Tabor

Tabor runs a Bachelor of Applied Social Science (Youth Work) from their campuses in Adelaide and Perth. This what is they say about the course:

Young people are actively involved in shaping our world. So, what will this world look like for all of us in the future? How will life be better for citizens of the next century? The Tabor Bachelor of Applied Social Science (Youth Work) is developed around a central, optimistic ideology – that young people enrich society. Such enrichment requires unity and collaboration. Human experience is fundamentally relational and Tabor believes that any society is made better by the presence of multiple voices.

The Tabor program is designed to promote the critical need for a collective voice in shaping our future world. This belief, grounded in the social sciences and our own spiritual values, drives us to play a role in the ongoing struggle for justice and to help young people excel in an interconnected society.

Find out more...

RMIT University

RMIT University runs a Bachelor of Youth Work and Youth Studies from their campus in Melbourne's CBD. This is what they say about the course:

The Bachelor of Youth Work and Youth Studies explores complex issues affecting at-risk youth, such as homelessness, radicalisation, poverty and mental health. It encourages critical debate and investigation of youth in relation to space, digital landscapes, culture, religion, family and the law.

The role of a youth worker is diverse, with many challenging and rewarding career opportunities. This program aims to examine and foster the environments in which all young people can thrive and feel confident, connected and safe.

Find out more...

Victoria University

Victoria University runs a Bachelor of Youth Work from their campus in Melbourne's Footscray Park Campus and recently in NSW. This is what they say about the course:

In our youth work degree, you'll learn to help young people develop through activities that are enjoyable, challenging and educational.

You'll graduate with:

  • a solid professional foundation for working with young people
  • specialist knowledge to support disadvantaged groups
  • clarity on the services available to teenagers and young adults
  • practical management skills
  • leadership skills.

Find out more...


Youth-Work-Degree-AustraliaCan we suggest that if you are in youth work or are looking to be a youth worker and you want to be in the sector for more than a couple of years then you need to have a youth work degree in Australia. The knowledge, practice wisdom and experience you gain will hold you in great stead for many years. Whichever degree you choose know that you are going to be learning from the best in the sector.

Remember that each of these degrees have their own take on how to do youth work, but the core business of working with young people to encourage, empower and engage young people is the same.

Let us know who you choose to study with!

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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Youth work with a criminal record

Criminal record and youth work

Dealing with a criminal record

Back in 2013 we wrote a post that dealt with how to approach youth work when you have a criminal record. You can read the original article here: Police records and public perception: Youth work with conviction. We had just had a number of students who had struggled to find placements due to their criminal record. These students were questioning if they had made a huge mistake. Basically they asked something like, “Aaron, will I ever be able to get a job in the sector or should I just quit now?” The unfortunate answer to this is it depends.

This week the Australian Community Workers Association wrote a post titled “Pursuing community work when you have a criminal record“. In the post, which we think is fantastic, the crew at ACWA have reiterated all the points we made almost five years ago. First, they cover what a security check reveals about you. Second, how employers will determine your suitability. Finally, how to handle your history during a job search. This article brings together some really great thoughts, particularly the final section. Being open and honest about your criminal record and what you have done to restore your community standing is a really important step. It helps employers to understand you and to make informed decisions as to your suitability for employment.

Unfortunately, there will always be people and organisations who see a criminal record and take that to mean you are unsuitable. These people and organisations will judge you without the opportunity for explanation or recourse. Don’t let this stop you. As a judge once told me, “we need youth workers who have experienced the other side and have come back from the edge”. These youth workers show that it is possible to restore community perception and make a great life for yourself.

ACWA end this very important piece by stating, “At the end of the day, we all make mistakes and deserve a chance to put our past behind us. The community services sector supports people to reach their potential and this is as true for aspiring workers as it is for clients“. We couldn’t agree more!!!

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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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Career Development

Podcast Episode 007: Career Development

Career Development
To support the podcast, donate here!

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).

To support the podcast, donate here!

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

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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Recruit great youth workers

7 tips for recruiting Ultimate Youth Workers

Recruit great youth workersRecruit great youth workersRecruiting Ultimate Youth Workers…

Recruiting is one of the most important jobs a youth service manager will ever have. Managers are responsible for two major tasks: results and retention. You can never get great results if you have mediocre people and you will never retain people if they don’t believe in what you are doing. So the answer is simple… recruiting the right people in the first place solves 90% of your issues.

First things First

You do not need someone so badly that you have to hire bad candidates. The absolute worst thing you could do is hire the wrong person because you feel the need to fill a spot. This will inevitably hurt your team and your ability to get the results you so desperately need to show. We all have stories of when the wrong person had a role and they tore a team apart. There is no time ever that you need to have a full complement of staff over recruiting the right person. No matter what anyone says you can take your time to get the best.


Tip 1 – Write a great position description: A great position description isn’t a fluffy document. Many HR departments have templates that have so much information and window dressing that you actually have no idea what you want a person to do, or even worse… you want them to do everything. Be clear and concise. The position description should include the duties you want the candidate to fulfill, the behaviours you want them to exhibit and the knowledge the must hold to do the role to which they are applying. If you feel like you are adding more than this it is simply window dressing. If you have the opportunity to have input into writing the position description make sure it is imperative that you make it fit your role perfectly.

Tip 2 – Initial cut down: You should ask for a resume, a cover letter and a response to your key selection criteria. Start with the cover letter. You are looking for an opportunity to weed out all those who wont fit your role. Many recruiter will spend less than 10 seconds scanning the cover letter. But, what should you look for??? Well here are a few ideas:

  • Is the document well formatted? Are there paragraphs? How are they justified (left or fully is the only way to go). Is it more than three or four paragraphs in length? Is it grammatically correct?
  • Are the candidates contact details on the document?
  • Has the candidate let you know where they heard about the role?
  • Have they addressed it to you or just used a ‘to whom it may concern’?

If a person makes it through the first round move on to their resume. Are the candidates contact details on the document? Do they have the qualifications and experience to fulfill the role? Is the document well formatted? Have they told you what they did in their roles or just put what they should have done from previous position descriptions? If they make it through these checks then you move on to the key selection criteria.

The key selection criteria should address your criteria within the position description. Have they answered your points with a clear PAR story. In a PAR story, they will describe:

  • Problem that existed
  • Actions they took to address the problem
  • Results they achieved solving the problem

If they make it this far they are OK. But, OK is not enough to fill your position. Its time for you to proceed to the next step.

Tip 3 – Phone screen interview: If you have other staff members on your team this is a good opportunity to get them to show some leadership, if not you can do it yourself. A phone screen interview is a short 30 minute interview that starts with the question ‘tell me about yourself?’ and ends with a behavioural interview question. You don’t tell the candidate your decision here (provide a good no letter if they didn’t make it). This is the most cost-effective and timely way of eliminating candidates who don’t stack up.

Recruiting to interview

Tip 4 – Interview those who are left: A day of interviews and testing and it’s what we use at Ultimate Youth Worker when we hire staff. But if your organisation can’t afford a day of interviewing then here are a few ideas for you:

  • Behavioural interviewing is a must. You need to see how a person will react to situations which will happen regularly in the role they are applying for.
  • If you aren’t getting your young people to help it’s not worth interviewing. The young people add a different dynamic that shows a lot about how the candidate works with young people.
  • An hour is not enough. Even the worst people can put on a good show for an hour. Try an hour of panel interviews, testing such as DISC profiling or a big 5 and finish with a half hour interview with the team. If you do this as a minimum you will be leaps ahead of your competition.

Tip 5 – It’s always better to have a bench: If you have a job opening and you already have a person who will fit the role you save yourself a lot of effort at the start. Most Government funding requirements expect transparent recruiting into roles, however if you have a person who will fit your role there is no rule that says you can’t get them to apply. Students who have done placements with you, former staff that you would have back in a heartbeat and casuals who are looking to expand their careers are all great people to have on your bench. If a role comes up that you think would fit a bench warmer then get them to apply. 

Tip 6 – References are not as useful as people think: If a person has put down a referee it is highly unlikely that person will have anything negative to say about your candidate. It is important to make sure they have all the credentials and qualifications they say they do. The best use of reference check is to qualify all the information the candidate has provided to you.

Tip 7 – If they aren’t excited they aren’t the right person: We don’t mean they have to be extroverts (we love introverts) but they do need to show enthusiasm. Enthusiasm for the organisation, the mission and the role. If the candidate doesn’t have a smile on their face and a spring in their step they are most likely the wrong person for your role. You should take excitement for the role over just about every other metric you use in hiring. Everything else you can teach or have it taught to the person who gets the job. Passion is something which can’t be given.


If you use these seven tips we guarantee you will get great candidates. These tips work for 90% of candidates 90% of the time. The rest comes down to your hard work and tenacity. If you want to take your organisation to the next level then you need to have the best staff. Recruiting Ultimate Youth Workers means setting the bar high and never settling except for the best.

 Once you’ve got the right person, don’t forget to keep them!

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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The youth work question

What is the youth work question?

Over the last decade I have been asked to speak with hundreds of people who want to be youth workers. Sometimes in seminars or training courses, other times I get to do it one on one. The first question I always ask is “Why do you want to be a youth worker?” In my experience there is no other question which separates those with happy fluffy bunny and rainbow unicorn feelings from those who will truly become the next generation of youth workers. It is the youth work question. Here are a few of the answers I get that cause me concern:

  • “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”

The youth work questionWhenever I hear one of these answers my skin literally crawls. Often broken and hurt people who look for closure to their inadequacies drift towards youth work. People who cannot answer the youth work question. It is something that youth work trainers see every intake. People who haven’t dealt with their own demons before wanting to work with young people. The other side to the coin 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 main things that lead myself and others to point them away. First, a lack of personal insight. Second, a short sighted view of working with young people. Finally, a focus on themselves not on the young people they 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 be a youth worker.

Here are a few links to articles on becoming a youth worker.

YACVIC

YACWA

Youth Work WA

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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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

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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There is no try in youth work

You cant try out youth work.

Youth work

Let me be blunt about youth work. You can not try out youth work. Its not like playing a game of basketball and then giving up. Its not like trying to paint and deciding you are not able to do better than stick figures. Its not like cooking where if you stuff up you can throw it in the bin. If you give youth work a go it is literally life and death. Your words, your actions, even your body language can support or shred the young people you work with in a heartbeat.

We get a lot of emails from people saying they want to try and be a youth worker. I cringe every time I read this statement. Its so non-committal. Many of our friends in the sector have stories of people they have met who during the course of their conversations state that they would love to try being a youth worker. Most of these people think its all coffees and camps, rainbows and unicorns. If you really want to be a youth worker you need to know that it is hard work. It is serious work. It takes people who genuinely care and want to work with young people through good times and bad.

I couldn’t resist a Star Wars quote. As the great Jedi master says, “Do or do not, there is no try”. In youth work we can’t try. Trying lends itself to giving up when it doesn’t work. Trying lends itself to being half-assed. Trying is… well just not enough. Be a youth worker. Give yourself to it fully. Don’t dip your toe in, do a belly whacker. The only way our young people will trust us and open up is if they see us fully engaged in youth work. it is the core to ethical practice. As Howard Sercombe says it provides space for young people to disclose. Do youth work with everything you are and everything you have and the rewards will be endless.

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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Children's Court

Youth work in the court system: its extremely important

Today I took a bunch of youth work students on a tour of the Melbourne Children’s Court. The Children’s Court of Victoria is a specialist court with two divisions dealing with cases involving children and young people. The Family Division hears applications relating to the protection and care of children and young persons at risk, and applications for intervention orders. The Criminal Division hears matters relating to criminal offending by children and young persons between the ages of 10 and 18. These courts had been a large part of my youth work career from my days working in drug and alcohol outreach to my time in family services. It is also a place that as a youth worker you hope you never have to enter as it means one of your young people has been abused or has done something they probably shouldn’t have.

Children's Court

As we were on our tour our guide mentioned that the role of a good youth worker in the children’s court was extremely important. Whether that was a youth worker writing clear and concise case notes and then providing quality testimony to the court on the work done with a young person in an abuse case or as a character reference for a young person facing incarceration because of a criminal matter a youth worker provides professional care and support in a setting that could at times feel trying. Aside from this our guide stated that it is often a lone youth worker sitting aside a young person that helps a judge to see opportunities for rehabilitation.

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There are many who would say that youth work is a generalist profession and any work that is not generalist is something else. We at Ultimate Youth Worker believe that it is in the ‘nitty gritty’ times such as appearances in a court that youth work really hits its stride. Our generalist skills set of relationship building and support provision is used extremely well in this important context. After all it is about our young people and their best interests.

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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