Online Youth Work

Podcast 028: Online Youth Work

Online Youth Work

Online Youth Work

In this episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast ‘Online Youth Work’ Aaron chats with Wolfgang Vachon from the C2YPodcast about youth work in the virtual realm. How do youth work practitioners work in the virtual realm? Do relationships, boundaries and practices change when interacting with young people online? What supports are available for youth workers online? What does an intervention look like when you have only met the young person virtually?


 

Its testing times for youth work globally. Austerity measures have cut us down and a global pandemic has crippled us. Yet, youth workers are a resilient bunch. We make do with what we have. Recently that has meant moving to the online space to continue building relationships with our young people.

This has been a trying time for many of us. The technical issues, having the right equipment and getting the ok to use different programs from management have all but scared us from the process. For others we dove in with abandon and used everything we could get our hands on…damn the IT Policies. So what does this mean for good youth work practice?

Well, thats the million dollar question. We probably wont know how effective we have been for a long time yet. However, we should find that doing online youth work has been based on our theoretical approach to youth work as usual. Young people are still our primary consideration, We still have a duty of care to exercise, we still have to think about privacy and confidentiality, there are still boundaries and it is reliant on cooperation and collaboration to name but a few of our ethical considerations.


Today’s resources

Here are links to some articles and training that have bearing on todays podcast.

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Before you go…

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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Online tools you need in 2020

Online tools you need in 2020

Online tools you need in 2020The online tool you need (Update)

We live in a time of myth and legend and an online tool or two. Apparently, youth workers are mystical creatures who need little money or time to effect massive changes… At least that seems to be the neoliberal view of us. Another myth is that we are all hip and cool with mad computer skills. I admit to having spent my fair share of time on an Xbox or play station over the years but that is the level I play at. A few years ago I was affectionately know in my team as the IT guy because I knew how to use Microsoft Outlook and use our reporting system. Most youth workers are tech novices. So we thought it would be good to have a list of online tools every youth worker should have access to. Most of these can be accessed by a smart phone, tablet or the dreaded PC. So if your service still chains you to your desk you can still use them… But I would say you need to speak to management about moving to portable devices 🙂

Sked Social

If you have more than one social media account to look after then you know the pain of trying to keep it all in order. We have used a number of services to look after our socials over the past five years and we can honestly say that nothing compares to skedsocial.com. You can organise your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even a linkedIn profile all from one amazingly easy to use platform.

Check out skedsocial.com.

Evernote

Evernote online tool

Evernote is a great online tool for organising all of your thoughts. It is like having a notebook in your pocket that you can put ideas into quickly and easily without needing a pen and paper. You can arrange your notes into ‘Notebooks’ to easily combine relevant ideas together. It takes pictures, adds web links, allows you to set reminders and even draw pictures. If you’re like me and have ideas about many topics and you have scrap paper or multiple notepads everywhere this program is for you.

https://evernote.com

You can have it on two devices for free.

Dropbox

Dropbox online tool

I was presenting off site last week when the USB I had my presentation on died. Completely fried. I almost went into a melt down. What was I going to do. Enter Dropbox. I called a colleague and had them drop the presentation into our Dropbox and with the help of the internet gods it was there when I logged in. Dropbox is a cloud based storage space where you can upload and download all manner of digital documents at the touch of a button. The free version gives you 2GB to use which is more than enough for most of us. Never be caught out again with this great online tool!

https://www.dropbox.com/

Cloud based so all you need is an internet connection

Canva

Canva online tool

If you are like me you are graphically challenged. I cant draw and I struggle to use tools to get beautiful flyers out of my head and onto paper. A former student put me on to Canva.com, online tools for those of us who are graphically challenged that is literally already set up for us. Need a flyer for a program… Done. A Picture for Facebook about your event…Done. Literally any visual marketing you need all available at the click of a mouse.

www.canva.com

Won’t replace your marketing team, but its part way there.

Adobe Colour Wheel

Colour wheel online tool

Our good friends at www.nourishingmedia.com put us on to this one. Being graphically challenged it also bodes that we are colour challenged. Yellow goes with everything right??? If you need some help in this department whether for flyers, presentations or anything else you can think of Adobe Colour Wheel provides a template to help you choose colour combinations.

https://color.adobe.com/create/color-wheel/

Since using this more of our flyers are able to be read.

Psychdrugs

Psychdrugs online tool

More and more young people seem to experience mental health issues that need medication. When doing intake forms I would regularly hear the names of medications that I had no idea about. I’m not a pharmacist. What they do, what dosage is high or low, the common names and much more is at your fingertips with Psychdrugs. Easy to use and with most mental health medications listed this is a top tool.

I have used this since 2008 and have not been disappointed.

The Google Platform

google-logo-1200x630

I have only recently been introduced to the amazing array of programs that google has in its arsenal. We all know the search engine is great and may even have a Gmail email account, but there is so much more to their online tools. spreadsheets, word processing, calendars, groups, hangouts, translate… The list goes on. If you are looking for free and amazing usability then the Google platform has it all.

www.google.com

There is a reason people benchmark themselves against Google.

Prezi

Prezi online tool

If I have to sit through another presentation by someone who has just found Microsoft Powerpoint or ApplesKeynote I may just explode. Boring presentations on basic themes with too many swishes, lets be honest we’ve all been there. Prezi takes the hard work out of designing a slide deck that looks good and has animation with its online tools. Some really cool templates with fill in fields turn a lacklustre presentation into a wow instilling performance.

https://prezi.com/

Asana

Asana

Youth workers often have many projects on the go with many different teams. This is a recipe for disaster if you do not have a system in place. The best system we have come across is Asana. You can seperate  your tasks into boards or lists and you can assign the right person to the job.

https://asana.com/

Survey Monkey

Surveymonkey online tool

Most services struggle to get feedback from their young people and when you stick a paper survey in their hand it usually ends in the bin. Survey Monkey is a free tool that allows you to create great surveys in minutes and send them via email, facebook, whatever system you want. The best bit is it aggregates all the data. You just need to read it.

https://www.surveymonkey.com

The free tool limits the size and type of surveys, but unless you do a lot its fine.

Kindle

kindle online tool

If you read a lot then you probably use Kindle. Bring all your books, journal articles, ebooks together in one space and get reading on the go. If you travel a bit it means you don’t have to pack heavy books in your bag. I struggle with reading on screens sometimes however you can deal with that for the ease of use and access to a huge library of content merely a click away. The kindle app for iPad is also a great investment.

Best for reading on the go.

Bitly

bitly online tool

If you send emails or use facebook you have probably sent a link before. Most people just cut and paste and then you end up with lines of nonsense which are the link. Bitly.com can shorten the link into something much more manageable. It also has the added functionality of allowing you to see who clicks on the links and from where. Some features are paid but you don’t really need them if you are just shortening links.

https://bitly.com

If you don’t have analytics for your website users you need them.

Trello

Trello online tool

I am new to Trello but it has already significantly changed how I work. Trello lets you create separate boards for projects and then populate the boards with lists. Each list then gets cards. If you were doing a project you set up a board, add topics to be done and then add lists of steps under each topic. We use it for everything at Ultimate Youth Worker tracking workflow, developing podcasts, our intranet, you name it.

https://trello.com

I wish I had this when I was studying, particularly group assignments

Zoom

Zoom

In this day and age of epidemics and the tyranny of distance it is important for youth workers to have a way of meeting with each other, our stakeholders and of course our young people. Zoom is an online tool for doing just this. For free you can run an online one-on-one meeting up to 40 minutes, for around $20 you can do group sessions of up to 100 people for 24 hours!!!!


If you begin to use these online tools you will find that your productivity increases and your time stuffing around decreases. You will also begin to do marketing of your programs better and by default have better engagement with your young people. Some of this will feel a little backwards when you start. Learning a new skill takes time. Pick one and start using it today.

Would you add any others?

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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Sociology

What do youth workers need to know about sociology?

Sociology for youth workers

SociologyAs youth workers we draw on many different frameworks to help us make sense of the world our young people live in. One of the most used frameworks in our kit bag is sociology. Through the sociological lens we can analyse social phenomena at different levels and from different perspectives. From concrete interpretations to sweeping generalisations of society and social behaviour, youth workers can study everything from specific events (the micro level of analysis of small social patterns) to the way groups work together (The meso level of analysis of groups and organisations) to the “big picture” (the macro level of analysis of large social patterns).

Below is a bite sized view of the top three perspectives in sociology which all youth workers should have an understanding of:

Symbolic interaction perspective

Max WeberThe symbolic interaction perspective, also called symbolic interactionism, is a major framework of sociological theory. This perspective relies on the symbolic meaning that people develop and rely upon in the process of social interaction. Although symbolic interactionism traces its origins to Max Weber’s assertion that individuals act according to their interpretation of the meaning of their world, the American philosopher George Herbert Mead introduced this perspective to American sociology in the 1920s.

Symbolic interaction theory analyses society by addressing the subjective meanings that people impose on objects, events, and behaviours. Subjective meanings are given primacy because it is believed that people behave based on what they believe and not just on what is objectively true. Thus, society is thought to be socially constructed through human interpretation. People interpret one another’s behaviour and it is these interpretations that form the social bond.

Critics of this theory claim that symbolic interactionism neglects the macro level of social interpretation—the “big picture.” In other words, symbolic interactionalists may miss the larger issues of society by focusing too closely on the “trees” rather than the “forest”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFQIIM8IRZU

Functionalist perspective

Emile DurkheimThe functionalist perspective can be traced back to Emile Durkheim and Talcott Parsons and has its roots in anthropology. This perspective focuses on social systems as a whole, how they operate, how they change, and the social consequences they produce.

Functionalism interprets each part of society in terms of how it contributes to the stability of the whole society. Society is more than the sum of its parts; rather, each part of society is functional for the stability of the whole society. The different parts are primarily the institutions of society, each of which is organized to fill different needs and each of which has particular consequences for the form and shape of society. The parts all depend on each other.

In trying to explain an aspect of a social system, functionalism asks several basic questions:

  • —How is this aspect related to other aspects of the system?
  • —What is its place in the overall operation of the social system?
  • —What kinds of consequences result from this?
  • —How do these consequences contribute or interfere with the operation of the cultural values and the realization of the cultural values on which the system is based?

Functionalism emphasizes the consensus and order that exist in society, focusing on social stability and shared public values. From this perspective, disorganisation in the system, such as deviant behaviour, leads to change because societal components must adjust to achieve stability. When one part of the system is not working or is dysfunctional, it affects all other parts and creates social problems, which leads to social change.

The functionalist perspective achieved its greatest popularity among American sociologists in the 1940s and 1950s. While European functionalists originally focused on explaining the inner workings of social order, American functionalists focused on discovering the functions of human behavior. Among these American functionalist sociologists is Robert K. Merton, who divided human functions into two types: manifest functions, which are intentional and obvious, and latent functions, which are unintentional and not obvious.

Functionalism has been critiqued by many sociologists for its neglect of the often negative implications of social order. Some critics, like Italian theorist Antonio Gramsci, claim that the perspective justifies the status quo, and the process of cultural hegemony which maintains it.

Functionalism does not encourage people to take an active role in changing their social environment, even when such change may benefit them. Instead, functionalism sees active social change as undesirable because the various parts of society will compensate in a seemingly natural way for any problems that may arise.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jOZqVnQmdY

Conflict Theory

Karl MarxConflict perspective is one of the major theoretical approaches to sociological thought. It originated with one of the fathers of sociology Karl Marx and his critique of capitalism and has since developed along a number of lines. In general, the conflict perspective assumes that social life is shaped by groups and individuals who struggle or compete with one another over various resources and rewards, resulting in particular distributions of power, wealth, and prestige in societies and social systems. These shape the patterns of everyday life as well as things such as racial, ethnic, and class inequality and relations among nations and regions of the world.

Conflict theory originated in the work of Karl Marx, who focused on the causes and consequences of class conflict between the bourgeoisie (the owners of the means of production and the capitalists) and the proletariat (the working class and the poor). Focusing on the economic, social, and political implications of the rise of capitalism in Europe, Marx theorized that this system, premised on the existence of a powerful minority class (the bourgeoisie) and an oppressed majority class (the proletariat), created class conflict because the interests of the two were at odds, and resources were unjustly distributed among them.

Within this system an unequal social order was maintained through ideological coercion which created consensus–and acceptance of the values, expectations, and conditions as determined by the bourgeoisie. Marx theorized that the work of producing consensus was done in the “superstructure” of society, which is composed of social institutions, political structures, and culture, and what it produced consensus for was the “base,” the economic relations of production.

Many social theorists have built on Marx’s conflict theory to bolster it, grow it, and refine it over the years. Explaining why Marx’s theory of revolution did not manifest in his lifetime, Italian scholar and activist Antonio Gramsci argued that the power of ideology was stronger than Marx had realized, and that more work needed to be done to overcome cultural hegemony, or rule through common sense.

Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, critical theorists who were part of The Frankfurt School, focused their work on how the rise of mass culture (mass produced art, music, and media) contributed to the maintenance of cultural hegemony. More recently, C. Wright Mills drew on conflict theory to describe the rise of a tiny “power elite” composed of military, economic, and political figures who have ruled America from the mid-twentieth century.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_c2p0Y7mgU

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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Self care is hard if you don’t plan for it!

Self care is hard

So my last two months have been absolutely crazy. I have spoken at the Tasmanian Youth Conference in Launceston. Presented at the 16th International Mental Health Conference on the Gold Coast. I have also completed four weeks of my final field placement for my Master of Social Work and taught three classes a week in the Bachelor and Grad Dip Youth Studies program at Eastern College Australia. To top it of two of my children have had birthdays and half a dozen other extended family members decided to have them as well. I confess, my self care has gone right out the window.

Self Care SeminarI have a self care plan. I review it every three months. Even still I have been overcome by events. My sleep patterns are shot. I am living off coffee and even that has started to wear off. I generally feel pretty wrecked. This all because I wasn’t ready for the tsunami of events that have come my way. I knew they were coming and I smiled and watched them come. I didn’t enact my self care plan. I was an idiot!

Self care is hard if you don’t plan for it! I knew I was going to have a few crazy months and I penciled in the idea of having my quarterly retreat and then never did anything about it. I knew I needed to recharge the batteries before heading into this period of my life… but I put it off. Now I am paying for it. No self care strategy works unless you put it in to action. My strategy calls for a period of rest and reflection before long stints of work which never happened. Did I mention I’m and idiot!!! Self care is my baby. I would speak about it until I am blue in the face.  Yet even poor little old me is lost without my plan and its implementation.

Don’t forget to implement your plan! Self care is hard if you don’t plan for it! Its impossible if you don’t work your plan.

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 career development: Qualifications, depth and breadth

One of the most often cited reasons for staff turnover in the youth sector is the lack of promotion opportunities. Whether it is leading teams or projects many youth workers want to move up the ladder. However we also have a relatively low entry point to becoming a youth worker with over 50% of the Australian youth sector having a Certificate IV or less. This lack of career progression options has been an issue within the sector for many years with the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition recently bringing it t the forefront again. It also forms the basis for one of the most frequently asked questions I get from students at university and TAFE… how do we get a decent job in the youth sector?

youth-work-degree

So with limited opportunities and a limited pool of highly qualified youth workers, what is a youth worker to do??? Plan their career!

Whether you are just starting your career or you are years into it, it is important to realise that no one other than you is looking out for your career progression. Most youth work organisations do not do succession planning or if they do it is mainly focussed on the top job. So if you thought that your manager was getting you ready for or had a focus on developing you for your next role, the chances are you are wrong. There are a few managers and organisations who take very seriously the idea of staff development and succession planning. However for the most part you are on your own.

[Tweet “Whether you are just starting your career or you are years into it, you need to think about career progression.”]

If there are limited opportunities for you to progress upwards in your organisation (usually because you are in a small or medium sized organisation) then you may need to think laterally. What other organisations do work you want to be involved in? What requirements do they have for staff? What qualifications do they want you to have? Is there specific knowledge or experience you need for the roles? In our experience you will need depth of knowledge about young people and a breadth of experience if you are to stand out for the roles you want.

If you imagine a Certificate IV as the minimum standard and a PhD as the maximum depth that your qualifications can have, look at the depth of your qualifications. More depth provides you more opportunity to get promoted. The other axis to look into is breadth. If all you have focused on is youth work you may have great depth (which is fantastic for an academic) but you will have no breadth. Now if you choose to gain some qualifications in the peripheries then you begin to gain some breadth. Drug and Alcohol, Mental Health, Management, Business, Family Therapy, Education; all of these periphery qualifications and more can give you more options for your career.

Depth and breadth of your qualifications are only one part of your career development plan. It gives you options. To begin the process though you have to have an area in mind that you want to end up in. At the beginning of my career I knew that I wanted to be the best at working with young people who were at the crisis end of the spectrum. That meant I had to Gain qualifications in these areas. I gained qualifications in Youth Work, AOD and Dual Diagnosis. Qualifications gave me some options. If you don’t have much depth or breadth November is always a great time to check out some options for building your qualifications.

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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Mental health

Mental health… Do you understand?

Mental health
Mental health is…

Mental health is the leading health issue of our time!

It is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the western world. One in four of our young people will have a diagnosed mental health issue by the age of 25. Many of the leading mental health diagnoses are most prevalent in adolescence. Most of all mental health is an issue of which youth workers must have a rock solid understanding. Unfortunately, most youth work education gives a youth worker a passing knowledge at best… and this is dangerous.

[Tweet “At Ultimate Youth Worker we believe that all youth workers should have a first responder understanding of mental health.”] At Ultimate Youth Worker we believe that all youth workers should have a first responder understanding of mental health. In the same way that paramedics have enough understanding of medicine to save your life and get you to hospital, we believe youth workers should have enough understanding about mental health to assess, triage and refer to mental health clinicians. We need more training. We need more education. We need more understanding.

Most young people are thankful for our empathy and care… but know how limited our knowledge of their issues are. Over the month of October we will be devoting time to help you understand more about mental health. October is mental health month and as a treat each week we will focus on one mental health issue and give you more depth than any course you have ever attended. We want you to be the best you could possibly be, and to do that we want you to have the best resources possible.

Organisations such as BeyondBlue and Headspace have fantastic resources aimed at young people and their families. They give a cursory understanding of the issues and provide a comforting nudge in the direction of support. As a tool for youth worker knowledge however they are limited. As youth workers we are often in a position to first identify mental health issues in young people and as such we need to have a better grasp of the issues. We must gain more than a mental health first aid certificate if we are to truly support our young people to recover their mental health.

Knowledge is power. It is also responsibility.

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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Peer support is key to youth work longevity.

Today, I had the pleasure of a lunch with a good friend and supporter of the work of Ultimate Youth Worker. A manager of a local government youth service and a canny outlaw I was enthralled in our conversation. We spoke about children, sociology, government policy, raising families and much much more. We spoke for nearly two hours and could have spent another two quite easy. We spoke about life in the good and bad and in the end we parted more strengthened and enthused in our walk.
 

Peer support is essential

 

It is these type of encounters that keep us going as youth workers. When colleagues share life together it takes our relationship from mutual employee to friend and confidant. It is the ability to share our joys and our fears that make these relationships so important. We must go beyond just peer reflection. Unfortunately, most organisations do not foster this relationship development. Managers and HR stress that as people we are only there doing the work to hit KPI’s. It is this lack of relationship building which confirms in many of us the need to leave our employer.
 
In my work throughout the sector I have been stoked to find such support and friendship from many people. We may only catch up once or twice a year or we may meet weekly but always we encourage an build one another up. We look out for each other, support each others projects and dream of the next big thing. Over the past two years I have also began to build an international group of peers who also do this. We Skype. We email. One day we will even meet face-to-face.
 
Get some peer support. It may require you to reach out. To be uncomfortable. To trust another. For your longevity you need good support networks. 
 
Who are the people in the sector who support you?
Let us know so we can celebrate 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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Be kind to youth work students: they are the future of the profession.

As a youth worker with over a decade in practice a number of qualifications and a private practice I have supported many youth workers on placement. In these situations I have tried to provide the best learning environment for each individual student. However many youth workers report that they are little more than gofers. Go for coffee, go for printing, go for this meeting.

This unfortunately is not an uncommon experience of students on placement. As a field placement supervisor I have spoken to dozens of students over the past year about their experience and the vast majority have felt like goffers. Go for coffee, go for my printing, go for … The list is endless. Students, particularly in their final year, need to be allowed to practice their skillset not just watch as it is done by others. They need opportunity to practice in a supervised environment to gain confidence and experience. They need supervisors who can let go of their work and pass it on to them.

If you are going to take on a student this year here are a few ideas to help them and you integrate as much as possible.

  1. Reading is essential to any job but more than a week of reading policies and procedure manuals is over the top.
  2. Regular weekly supervision that addresses different aspects of the role is essential. Dont just ask about tasks, but set articles to be read before sessions to stimulate conversation.
  3. Dont expect students to know everything.
  4. Expect them to be competent at a first job standard.
  5. Give them genuine tasks to sink their teeth in. They may be cheap labour, but they are useless to you as goffers! Remember it is costing the student to do the placement.
  6. Have a plan of action from day one with a number of tasks that must be achieved and review this weekly.
  7. Finally, get to know your student and have space for them to get to know you.    



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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