How to become a youth worker

The working life of a youth worker is challenging but very rewarding. If you are a positive pro-active person. Then as a youth worker, you can help to make a genuine difference to people lives. You provide an essential service to vulnerable young people living in care and rehabilitation systems. Many young people in the system face considerable challenges in their lives which hold them back. Often, spiralling them into ever worsening situations. You work with young people at risk of experiencing emotional, social or behavioural problems. Trying to help them find positive outcomes for their lives. Ultimately, the work can take different forms, one day you take on the role of a counsellor, on other days you arrange fun activities to provide positive distractions.

If the thought of a desk job makes your blood run cold. If nothing phases you, you are positive, supportive, and you have a genuine desire to help people. Then, why not consider becoming a youth worker. This is a challenging but highly rewarding career move. Keep reading to see how you can realise your potential as a youth worker.

Step one: Consider a specialisation

Before you consider the course you would like to take, you can think about the specialisations which are available to youth workers. Your interests and preferences can then inform your course choice. Here are three specialisations you could consider pursuing after working as a youth worker.

Drug and Alcohol Worker

Working with young people or adults, you specialise in assisting people to free themselves from alcohol or substance abuse. Firstly, you work with them to assess the severity of their addiction. Then, you try to find ways to help them to reduce or beat their addiction. 

Family Support Worker

As a family support worker, you specialise in helping families. Working with them when they are experiencing times of hardship, whether for financial reasons, or personal problems. You visit them to support them in finding positive ways to cope with their circumstances. Furthermore, trying to help them find ways to keep the emotional and physical well-being of the family intact through their difficulties.

Accommodation Worker

When people are experiencing difficulties in their lives, they will very often experience accommodation problems at the same time. When people don’t have a safe place to stay, they have little chance of finding a way through their other struggles. You work with vulnerable people and help them to access crisis, hostel or supported facilities accommodation.

Step two: Choose a Course

After you have considered all your options and decided if you want to work as a youth worker, or if you would like to specialise in the future. The time has come to choose a course. A youth worker has a challenging job and investing your time towards training first will teach you the skills and knowledge you will need to succeed.

Step three: Get a Working with Children Check

Once you have graduated (well done you) you will need to have a working with children check before you can begin your first job. You will be working with vulnerable people and having this check is essential.

Step four: Apply for your first job

There is very strong growth predicted in the community services sector, which makes this a good time to begin training. When you are ready to apply for work, don’t forget to tailor your resume for each application. You should include details of your qualifications, personal strengths and any relevant experience you may have.

Step five: Gain experience and progress

Once you have landed your first job, focus on settling in. Gain experience, build on your skills and strengths. Then, once you have significant experience under your belt you can consider making moves to progress your career. Good luck!

What does a Youth Worker do?

Firstly, your job as a youth worker is to identify young people who are vulnerable and at risk. Secondly, when you begin working with someone you make an assessment of their individual needs. Thirdly, you come up with a plan to help them overcome any challenges they are facing, or to access services which could help them. You may be working from a range of different settings. In outreach, you engage with young people in public places. Then, you give them advice on problems like homelessness, rehabilitation, or employment advice. Another area you could work is direct services, in this case, you focus on creating programs and activities to engage young people in a positive way. Some youth workers may focus on crisis situations providing counselling. Lastly, you act as the voice of the young people you work with, advocating for them, and advising on policy in relation to young people.

Tasks

  • Conducting counselling sessions
  • Coming up with programs and activities
  • Raising awareness of existing programs and services
  • Providing advice, encouragement, and support
  • Liaising with community and welfare groups
  • Helping people access services

Skills for Success

When you are a youth worker you will be in continual contact with young people, social workers, teachers, parents, local groups and government agencies. You will have many different “hats” you wear each day depending who you are communicating with. Sometimes, you can find the work affects you emotionally. You need to care without draining yourself too much as well.  This means you need to be a tough cookie, but tender on the inside! You need to have empathy for the young people you work with, and to motivate and encourage them through positive means. In the same way, you will need to be excellent at communication and relating to people. You need to have a strong commitment and passion to help people, which will carry you through the challenging times.  

Skills and attributes

  • Patient and tolerant
  • Enthusiastic and supportive
  • Can handle stressful situations
  • Good at taking the initiative
  • Have a sincere desire to help people
  • Very good interpersonal skills

How much is a Youth Worker salary in Australia?

In Australia, youth workers earn a median wage of $52,705 per year. This varies according to a number of factors and is intended as a reference only, from Payscale 05/’18.

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