When it comes to choosing a career, youth work might not have been something you previously considered.
But if you are a ‘people-person’ with a caring nature, who derives genuine pleasure from helping others in need, then you could be tailor-made for this line of work.
You should always get good career advice, especially if you are soon to be leaving college or university. To ascertain whether it is something that might be suitable for your personality and skill set.
But for those who are open to the idea, in this article, we will highlight some of the main draw cards in becoming a fully qualified professional youth worker.
Who exactly are the ‘youth’?
While there is no exact definition of who ‘youth’ are, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, it includes anyone between the ages of 12 to 24 years old.
In 2019 this roughly translated to about 3.3 million young people, approximately 51% of which were male and 49% were female.
In total young people make up about 13% of the total population of Australia.
Rather alarmingly, a report by The Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing found that 1 in every 7 children aged 12 to 17 met the official clinical criteria for at least one mental disorder within the previous 12 months.
That is a lot of children that need help!
What does being a youth worker entail?
Essentially, youth workers support young people who suffer from behavioural, social, developmental, protection and welfare issues.
They provide them with practical, confidential and emotional support by working with them on a group and/or individual basis to deal with these issues.
Typically, the aim is to counter the disadvantages these young people experience via programs and activities that promote positive attitudes and outcomes. Both of which foster the safety, health and general well-being of young people at risk.
Reasons why you should consider youth work as your next career choice?
Now is a very good time to consider youth work as your next career choice.
Within the next 5 to 10 years, future employment and growth opportunities are predicted to increase at a healthy rate according to Job Outlook.
This is partly because COVID-19 caused significant stress for young people in terms of social isolation, the threat of unemployment, social isolation and rising financial concerns.
As a result, most experts advocate that we will continue to see steady increases in the number of young people suffering from mental health issues.
If that has given you food for thought, here are some other reasons why you might want to become a youth worker.
It pays well
Firstly, youth work pays pretty well.
According to figures published by SEEK, youth workers and other related professions on the same level in Australia earn an average annual income of between $65,000 and $75,000.
It can be very rewarding and fulfilling
Whilst the work can be very challenging, it can be very rewarding and fulfilling too. Especially when you can see that your patients are making significant progress, as a direct result of the activities and programs you have designed for them.
As many youth workers will tell you, there is no better feeling than knowing you have helped a young person overcome their challenges and frustrations and put them on the path to a better life.
The varied work stimulates your brain and enhances creative thinking
Youth work is incredibly varied work.
On any given day you might be running counselling sessions, giving advice and providing support, generating awareness of youth programs, and liaising with both welfare and community groups.
Together, this sheer variety of activities requires lots of creative thinking and stimulates your brain to devise innovative new ways to assist those you are helping.
There are several specialised roles you can do
Whilst working with young people, you can choose to specialise in a number of specific roles. These include:
1. Family support worker
This type of role centres on helping families that are experiencing hardship and stress that relate to personal or financial problems.
Typically, these types of support workers assist families to cope and foster a sense of well-being, through strategies and methods that are designed to assuage the issues.
2. Drug and alcohol worker
The role of a drug and alcohol worker is to perform outreach work with young people who are addicted to or experiencing dependency on alcohol or drugs.
A significant aspect of this work is to assess how severe the addiction or dependency is and come up with measures that will result in a significant reduction, or even stopping of the drug taking, or alcohol consumption.
3. Accommodation worker
Specialising in this role means your remit revolves around assisting young people who are confronted with problems that relate to their living conditions.
A key element of your job in this role is to provide help to young people who currently live in unsafe home environments.
What traits should a successful youth worker have?
If you are considering a career as a youth worker, it is worth noting that many successful youth workers have the following traits.
Rapport and relatability
One of the key attributes you need to become a successful youth worker is to be able to establish a good rapport with people, especially young people.
To enable them to do this they need to be able to trust and relate to you. This will result in them eventually becoming more open in their communications with you.
As a youth worker, it is imperative that you have a non-judgemental attitude.
The young people you will engage with will come from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds. Many of them will be experiencing issues with drugs, alcohol, sexual abuse and homelessness.
You will need to display an open mind and not pass judgement on their beliefs and values.
What these teenagers and young adults need above and beyond anything else, is someone who will listen to them with understanding and empathy and provide them with solutions that will make a significantly improved difference to their lives.
Caring and sincere personality
To be effective in your role as a youth worker you need to be caring and sincere.
It’s imperative to remember that you are dealing with human beings who have feelings and emotions.
So, you must always show the young people you are working with that you genuinely want to make a meaningful difference to their lives, and are not just talking to them because it’s a requirement of your job.
Humility and flexibility
It is important to always conduct your work with humility and be flexible in your approach.
When dealing with young people you cannot apply a cookie cutter solution when helping them. What worked for one person might not necessarily work for another.
So, you will need to be flexible to try different things for different people, and not just impose one rigid solution on them.
To be successful and effective in your work, you need the humility to understand that you will constantly have to widen your knowledge base and learn from every patient experience.
Good work/life balance
Whilst being a youth worker can be incredibly rewarding, it can also be tough, confronting and challenging.
For this reason, it is imperative that you strike a good work/life balance.
Be sure to have plenty of time to switch off, relax and have fun outside of your work. Otherwise, if it becomes your sole focus, you could quickly suffer from burnout.
Choosing your next career move is a huge decision, and one you should think long and hard about.
Having read this article, if you are interested in taking up youth work as a career, the first thing you will need to do is acquire your diploma of youth work from TSA.
If you do that successfully, a very enriching, diverse and interesting career awaits you.
You will need to have passion, resilience and a very caring attitude when helping young people. As well as the patience and mental acuity to devise strategies and techniques for their benefit.
But the more you do that, the more young people you will help to enjoy a better life. And at the end of the day that is what youth work is all about.