Ongoing professional development: Its all about your budget.

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

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

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

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

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

Leave us a comment below!

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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Guest post on drownthenoise.com

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

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

We’re really glad you’ve come to check us out. Here’s a quick guide to us as a company:

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You should already be on our blog page, so you can scroll down and read some of our recent posts. To see older posts, there are a few ways of doing this:
  • Click on “older posts” at the bottom of this page
  • Click on one of the categories on the right hand side of the page to read specific types of posts (e.g. professional identity, youth work, self care etc)
  • Use the “blog archive” on the right 

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

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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Is the professionalisation of our sector destroying the very foundation of youth work?

Thoughts on professionalisation

Over the last couple of days I have been re-listening to some of my favourite podcasts from c2ypodcast.  Two in particular grabbed my attention as the guests spoke about the failure of the professionalisation movement in light of youth work core principles. We have stated a number of times on this blog that the professionalisation debate is lacking and unhelpful at best. We believe that qualifications and metrics don’t make a professional… it takes passion, calling and a whole lot of work.
ProfessionalisationFirst up was Professor Dana Fusco who in discussing her amazing work “Advancing Youth Work: Current Trends, Critical Questions” spoke of the threat that certification of youth workers holds for youth work. The research for other professions appears to show that certification and professionalisation of other professions has not led to the recognition which we as youth workers are seeking. Dana’s discussion led me to think that the striving to become more professional in the human services sector has led to a watering down of youth work principles and practice wisdom.

The second conversation was with an elder statesman in the field of youth work, Dr. Gerry Fewster. Gerry spoke of how insidious and easy it is for us to fall into the trap of practicing just like other human services professions such as psychology or social work in a world which waters down our practice as youth workers. That our uniqueness and ability to work with young people in a fluid way is compromised by blindly following into the mire of professionalisation.

Neither of these professionals believe that youth workers should be less than highly professional. What they do argue is that by limiting the scope and practice of youth workers through managerialism and metrics whilst seeking to gain a better reputation is ludicrous.

Lets be more professional every day, but let us never give up that which makes us unique.

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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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Be transparent!!!

I was watching an Australian political review program this evening and as I was watching I realised something much more profoundly than I ever had before. When people actively try to hide their business from others we don’t trust them. When governments say they have policy initiative but then do not show them, we don’t trust them. When military say that they are doing things by the book then don’t  show their video of their work, we don’t trust them. When corporations use their considerable funds to silence critics, we don’t trust them.

In youth work I have heard a number of my colleagues over the years say that they could not speak about the type of work they do because of confidentiality issues. Let me just say BOLLOCKS!!! I have heard of organisations who actively seek to limit their public accountability. Currently there are a number of inquiries in Australia into lack of transparency of organisations and in a number of these organisations youth workers have key roles.

To save the reputation of our profession and it workers we need more transparency. In our individual work and in our organisations we must come to the understanding that if we want to have complete respect of our work people need to understand what we do.

Be transparent in all you do. It will get on peoples goat… But it will help you to have a successful career.

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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Why you need to read youth work journals

Late last year Australian youth work was dealt a blow which hurt us to the core. Youth Studies Australia, our journal of 18 years, lost its funding and even after outcry from the sector and pledges to step in it closed up shop. As an avid reader for almost a decade I will miss the journal. The stories and articles as well as the reviews helped me in numerous ways though out my career. Youth Studies Australia is but one journal however that targets youth workers. 

A cursory check of my old RMIT library account shows over 20 academic journals devoted to youth work from throughout the world. These journals cover the breadth and width of youth service provision and give youth workers varied policy and cultural backgrounds to draw from. Over the years I have read articles from all of these journals and have found them to provide great insight into young people and youth programs that youth workers can use to develop their own practice.

Previously on this blog we have implored youth workers to read a book, to develop their their knowledge and practice wisdom. We Have asked youth workers to seek professional development opportunities and to study harder. We have asked youth workers to be more accountable to the young people and the sector. One of the easiest and least time consuming ways we know of doing this is reading journal articles.

Journal articles are bite sized peer reviewed gold nuggets of practice wisdom which take less than half an hour to consume and which give years of excellent ideas. Articles are the way Ultimate Youth Workers share what is working for them and their young people for us to leverage in our own practice environment. It is also the most up to date research available to the sector.

In a nutshell, read up.  

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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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We need to fail more youth work students: youth work is not a profession for the non hackers

The argument levelled at youth work as a profession and youth workers in particular that gets my goat the most is that we are untrained, unqualified yahoos who do more harm than good to the young people we work with. I have spent my career fighting this argument. Against social workers with four year degrees and psychologists with masters degrees a two year diploma at best seems trivial to other social services professions.

In the discussion of our brothers and sisters in the professionalisation camp many have stated that a degree should be the minimum qualification for youth workers. In Australia over 50% of youth workers have a Certificate IV or less. But as we have said before we believe that more than qualifications are required for Ultimate Youth Workers.

That being said we believe there are a lot of people passing youth work qualifications who should not have made it through. Over the summer we spoke with a number of youth work lecturers and teachers from Australia and across the world. In many of these discussions they lamented the calibre of students which were leaving their courses. Students who were doing the course as a stepping stone to something else. Students who were doing it to keep their welfare cheque coming in. Students who were not putting in effort in academic areas or in field placements.

As a teacher I tell my students that I have no compunction in failing them if they don’t make the grade. That I expect excellence in the classroom because I expect it in the sector. When students struggle I give them all the support available. If they still fail then thats it. 

I have heard of a number of students who have been passed in their courses so that institutions can get the money available for graduating students. I have heard of lecturers and teachers passing students just to get them out of their classes. This type of behaviour needs to stop.

If we as a profession are to gain credibility in the community sector it must start in qualifying only those who meet our stringent standards. Minimum qualifications and coasting through need to be wiped out.

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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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Ultimate youth workers will always try one more time.

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.
Thomas A. Edison 

It is a fact in the daily work of a youth worker that there is disappointments and setbacks. We are regularly lied to, see the worst in people and we get limited if any support to do it. It is in these times that it is really easy to give up. To focus on the negatives. To move on to the next young person.

The hard thing is to push on through. To try, try, try again. It is in the hard times when we show our young people that no matter what is going on we will stand by them that we often see the greatest successes.


Remember when all seems lost try just one more time. 

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If you haven’t yet, sign up for our newsletter to find out all the goings on at Ultimate Youth Worker.

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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Hot potatoes for youth worker’s: I was sexually abused.

There have been many times in my career that I have been stopped in my tracks by something that has been said to me by a young person. None of them have had the effect on me that dealing with an allegation of sexual abuse has. Whether you are a youth minister, a chaplain, a street outreach worker or a case manager it is highly likely that you will deal with this at one stage in your career. According to the Centre’s Against Sexual Assault here in Victoria 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men are survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
I do not remember the first disclosure that was made to me but over the past decade or so I have had dozens. From young people in child protection custody to children from well to do families I have been on the recieving end of a number of quite horrific disclosures of abuse and neglect. The one thing I do remember is that if it wasnt for my training and the ammount of role plays that we did I would not have been ready to deal when the young person said they were sexually abused.
Recently I have been training chaplains in how to deal with a disclosure of sexual abuse and I thought it prudent to share this with you. Here are a few thoughts to help you in your response.

  1. Remember your duty of care. Any disclosure of abuse needs to be taken to the appropriate authorities. You are there for their safety first and foremost.

  2. Make sure that they are currently safe and that they will continue to be safe. If they disclose that they are being abused at home and that it happens every night then they need to be protected now… not in a couple of weeks.

  3. Listen to their allegation. If you have already spoken to them about your duty of care and they continue then they genuinely need to get it off their chest. Listen intently so that you can make notes later.

  4. Refer them to the police and child protection. In most developed states and countries the police and child protective services are the ones tasked with investigating abuse claims. You are not an investigator, you are a confidant.

  5. If it is possible, contact the young persons parents and involve them in the process of referral and healing.

  6. Finally make notes. you may be called on to give evedence in a court case so as soon as is practicable write down a detailed description of what was said and what you observed from the young person.

Above all of this you must comply with your states and countries legislation. If you are required to report issues of sexual abuse you MUST do it. We at Ultimate Youth Worker believe that we all have an ethical requirement to report even if we are not mandated. 

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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Using writing as a tool for critical reflection: Youth worker skill building

I always hated journaling. When I was a young intern in my 20’s I absolutely hated Tuesday morning as it was journaling time. My other intern colleagues would open their books and just write. I would stare at the blank page and start to sweat. I am sure my supervisors thought I was wasting time…They told me as much… but I just couldn’t put pen to paper and make sense of my world.

Four years later as I was completing my final placement for my youth work degree I was again thrust into the world of journaling. I still hated it. This time my pen to pare looked more like case notes than critical reflections. This is what I did… This is what I saw… This is who I met with… and on I went. My supervisor rebuked my lack of insight into the work we were doing. I really hated reflective journaling. 
About four years ago now I was in a very sticky situation at work. Suffice it to say I was a mess. one of my mentors suggested that I journal my experience and the groan and roll of my eyes told him just how much I was looking forward to that idea. But the old Vietnam vet wouldn’t leave well enough alone. He dug in and asked me what I had done previously that made me hate the idea of reflective writing. I told him and this time he groaned and rolled his eyes. The next hour or so changed my mind on reflective writing and set me on a course to leading other there.
Reflective writing is not a chronicling of events, a case note or even a dear diary entry. It is the systematic untangling of the intangible and the obscure. It is making sense of the senseless. It is opportunity to grapple with feelings and values when we feel like we are drowning in emotion. Over the years I have read widely on reflective writing and here are a few of my favourite kick starters.
  1. Write about the situation that is causing you concern  from a different vantage point. The clients, a parents the fly on the wall.
  2. Spend five minutes free writing (what ever comes out of the end of the pen when you put it to paper) then pick one idea or word from that and write about it.
  3. List all your feelings about a situation and then write for five minutes about one of them.
  4. List all the people involved in a situation and then write a short bio as if they were actors and the situation is a play.
  5. Write a letter to yourself about the situation in the third person
  6. Write a letter to a child about why you love your job
These are just a few ideas that I have used to jump start my critical reflections over the years. They may not all work for you, the trick is to just do something.
P.S.  I still hate writing but the therapeutic and supervisory gold that comes from reflective writing cannot be underestimated.

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 should be a major part of a youth workers training.

I am currently developing curriculum for the diploma of youth work here in Australia. This curriculum is focused on youth mental health. There are many of my colleagues who believe that any form of specialist training of youth workers is degrading our profession. That to develop a new focus in our training is to minimise our effectiveness as an industry to ourselves. However, as should be apparent to long time readers, we disagree completely.
 
We have said before that we believe the time has come for a complete rethinking of the current youth work curriculum. One area we believe has been sorely missing for decades is that of mental health. If one in four young people will have a diagnosed mental health issue it is our responsibility to have a strong understanding of the area. We believe that youth workers should gain at least an emergency triage level understanding of mental health.
 
If you are a youth work educator, a service manager or a team leader we believe it is your responsibility to impart on your junior staff and students a need for new knowledge. In particular and one of the easiest to impart would be that of mental health. Do you do this at the moment? What curriculum do you use to teach mental health?
 
Let us know!

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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