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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We need to measure everything: youth work is changing and so must we.

Over the past year we have attended a number of conferences and seminars throughout Australia on the awesome practice that is youth work. We have also had the privelege of speaking with a number of our international counterparts about where international practice is at. As we have reflected about these instances as a team we have become aware of a major concern in the sector. We lack good clear data for advocating about the great work we do.
In her address to the Australian Capital Territory Youth Workers Conference, Gabi Rosenstreich, CEO of the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, reminded the gathered youth workers that anecdotes and innuendo have little sway with funding bodies, governments and communities. Professor Judith Bessant also stated the need for more research both quantitative and qualitative. This message has been one we have heard throughout this year from people in leadership positions throughout the sector.
Many organisations are gathering some great data in their day to day work, however the resounding discussion in the sector seems to be that we need to get more. To this end we would also state that the data needs to be shared. There is little point in having the data if it sits in your computer or on a shelf… it needs to get into the hands of people who can use it. Send your data to peaks, universities, advocacy groups and just about everyone you can think of.
Recently the publication Youth Studies Australia ceased its run as Australia’s foremost journal on young people and the youth sector after eighteen years in print. If we do not share the knowledge we have and the solid data that has been compiled then it will not just be our journal that goes the way of the dodo but our sector as a whole. We are at a very precarious point in Australia and throughout the world. We need to be able to prove our worth and not rely on the historical altruism which has got us through in the past.
What are you doing to build our research pool?

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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Implimenting self care in your youth work organisation.

Self care in your organisation

At a number of conference we have presented at this year we have been asked by managers about how to implement our self care strategy with their staff and more widely in their organisation. As we have spoken with these managers we have come away with more of an understanding of the needs and difficulties they have in supporting staff to look after themselves.
We often hear that some workers do not want to look after themselves, that the organisations policies are vague about self care and most of all we hear that people just do not know where to start. It is a big job to change the values of an organisation. However as a wise man once said every journey begins with a single step.

When we have advise managers where to start we often state that it should happen in one-on-one meeting with their staff to go over the process we use for individuals. After they have met with all of their staff a team meeting is the next place to push the idea. However we have found that this often only works if your manager drives the process.

In 2014 we are launching a new service for organisations to help implement self care as a whole of organisation process. This can begin at a team level however the goal is to implement self care planning across the whole organisation. We look at policies and procedures, we provide a step by step coaching plan for the manager who wants to impliment this and we work with organisations to implement self care into performance management documentation as a way of holding everyone accountable for staff care.

We are currently putting together a white paper outlining why we believe this to be the biggest issue for youth work organisations at the moment and provide a more detailed outline of how we can support you to implement a whole of organisation self care strategy.

If you would like a copy for yourself, your manager or your organisation emails us today.

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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Are we to soft on young people exhibiting sexualised behaviours: Youth work dilemma.

Today I was speaking with a group of people from within the education and human services sector about working with young people who exhibit sexually abusive behaviours. What we mean here is young people aged over 10 and under 16 who sexually abuse others. When having this discussion it became apparent that there were two different opinions in the room. The Education view was to intervene early and deal decisively with the behaviours at the earliest point possible. The human services view was to deal with the behaviours only when they became problematic.
 
One view was early intervention and preventative. The other was critical intervention. As someone who has worked in the human services I struggled with the heavy handed approach of the education  sector. One case they spoke of had a child suspended after rubbing himself against a fellow classmate. The human services also struggled with this. They commented that this would not even be an issue that they would look at.
 
After listening to this discussion I started to think that perhaps we are allowing young people to exhibit sexual behaviours to  early. When children under 10 are regularly having sex and children even younger are experimenting with their bodies and each other have we as a society already lost the battle? Young people by nature will experiment with their sexuality, but are we as youth workers to soft on them when they exhibit inappropriate behaviours?

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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What is the best way to start as a youth worker?

I have been asked this question about a dozen times over the last six months by eager young potential youth workers looking to get a foot in the door to their future career. I have to say it is a hard one to answer. For me, I fell into it after a mate asked me to help out his Friday night youth group. So my own experience was of moving from volunteer to paid work and then study. However, many of these eager students are straight from school into youth work courses so what is my advice to them??? Work out what is going to work for you!
 
 
Here are a few ideas I have for these students and other would be youth workers:
  • Know who you are! The amount of students I speak to who do not have a good understanding of their own values and what makes them tick would blow your mind. One of the first things I ask when trying to help potential youth workers is why they want to be a youth worker… if you cant answer this question you may need to take a while to sort it out before continuing.
  • Volunteer work is a great way to build skills and experience. If you are young or have not worked in the sector before then volunteering with a reputable organisation can be a great way to get skills and training… and a job (or at least a good reference).
  • Get some qualifications. In this day and age qualifications are king. You need to have the piece of paper under your belt before many organisations will even look at you. Currently there is a push towards a minimum standard of a two year diploma in Australia, but more is better.
  • Build your networks. Join local council groups, local area networks and peak bodies. Anywhere there is a youth worker join their group. This gives you profile in the sector and opportunity to get information and information is key to good interviews.
  • Work out what area of youth work you most want to get into. Youth work is a wide and varied and it can give you an immense amount of joy… if you are in the right area. Work out what gets you going and then run for it with all your might.
Finally, when you have all of this completed just go to the organisation you are interested in working for and meet with the management. Give them a resume and talk about why you would like to work for them. They may through it in the bin, but they will remember you when you apply for an opening.
 
 

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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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Managers need support to do their job: youth work depends on it.

For youth workers to be the best they can be, they need well trained and supported management. We need to have managers who have skills in supervision, people management and an understanding of youth work. They need to have organisational support from CEO’s and Board members to develop their staff and themselves.

At a recent seminar in Tasmania I spoke with a number of managers and executives who agreed intrinsically that youth workers need better supervision and support. They believed that organisations had a responsibility ethically to provide a safe and supportive environment to staff. They all saw that the fear from staff and organisational leaders was destroying cohesive service delivery and support. Yet when it was put to the group that they needed to do something about it the room went silent.

Managers need the support of their staff and their organisations to implement great youth work practices. Get behind 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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Self care is a workplace health and safety issue

Self care is an OHS issueSelf care is an OHS issue

Over the past few months I have been reading as many articles as I could get my hands on looking at self care in the human services. One thing that keeps coming up in the literature is the issue of work stress leading to staff leaving the sector. Staff who at one stage loved their job and the sector who because of the vicarious trauma and minimal managerial support have burnt out. It is just not good enough for a sector that claims to care about people.
So why do we let this happen??? Some say it is the stigma of burning out that makes individuals fear asking for help. Others say that the organisations fear opening a Pandora’s Box of legal and ethical issues. One thing is for sure, as an issue, workplace stress does not get the time it needs at OH&S committee meetings. It is an area which can save organisations thousands of dollars if dealt with properly. Money saved in lost productivity, new hires and costly legal bills as well as higher insurance costs.
As a sector we need to surpass our fears and make self care the ethical issue it is. We need to have workplace stress as a standing item at team meetings, in supervision sessions and in organisational OH&S committees. We currently lose almost a quarter of our staff every year through turnover, if we continue to ignore this massive elephant in the room this number will only grow. In a sector that is struggling to recruit staff shouldn’t we be concerned about keeping those we already have.
What is one thing you can do to place workplace stress on the OH&S agenda?

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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 develop the future potential of the youth work sector.

In a month I will be speaking at a conference in my nations capital city about the need for self care in our sector. This is the one thing I would do with the rest of my life if I was only able to do one thing. If I was able to do two things, then I would spend that time developing new talent. Mentoring, teaching, supervising and helping them develop networks. In the ACT there is going to be youth work awards, recognising the outstanding work of a few people within the sector. We should spend more time recognising the awesome young workers coming through the ranks.
 
 
How does your organisation develop and recognise the future potential in its youth workers? What are you doing to develop future talent?
 

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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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99% attitude and 1% skill: youth work students need to realise!

I have recently been reviewing the student placements of a number of youth work students. I have been speaking with their supervisors and have come to the conclusion that there is one thing that all youth work students need to know before they go on placement… it doesn’t matter how much you know or don’t know it is almost all about your attitude.
 
Many of the supervisors stated that they did not care how much the students knew they just wanted willingness to learn and a positive attitude. The students who showed these qualities were given great marks and amazing opportunities. For those that didn’t have the right attitude they were shunned and treated with reservation.

When you have students come into your organisation for placement gently remind them that their attitude is important to their overall success in their placement and in the sector. Skills are the 1%ers which can be taught. Attitude is the thing that will get them through every time.

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 sector must promote self care

Promoting self care

One of my best mates in youth work said to me today that  he had been speaking to a bunch of people about the work of Ultimate Youth Worker recently. He stated that he was surprised when almost all of them stated that they didn’t think there was an issue with self care within the sector. When my friend spoke of burnout rates and levels of psychological stress in our sector they could begin to see the issue.

If managers and organisations really understood the negative effects and the cost to the organisation then self care would be the first thing on their agenda rather than the last. If organisations saw the revolving door that spat out their staff you think they would try to stop it. We can no longer ignore the fact that our sector is allowing staff to become psychologically damaged just to meet KPI’s.

Throughout our research we have been shocked at how many individuals, managers, organisations and peak bodies who at best pay lip service and at worst see self care as for the weak. Over the past few months I have been privileged to speak with and train a number of Tasmanians in self care. The most fantastic thing about this is that in the Youth Ethics Framework for Tasmania they state categorically that self care is a ethical requirement.

Self care being promoted in TasmaniaWe need more groups like the Youth Network of Tasmania to stand up and shout that self care is a requirement for exceptional youth work.

What are you doing to set the self care agenda???

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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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