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How to become a youth worker

By Alison Rodericks

A Youth Worker career is something that many people want to explore, so how do you become a youth worker, and what are the benefits? 

Here are a few questions you might ask yourself: Are you a “people-person” who wants to make a difference in young people’s lives? Do you get joy from helping others, especially the less fortunate? Perhaps you should consider a career in Youth Work. It’s a very rewarding job where no two days are ever the same.

“More Australian teenagers are in severe psychological distress than five years ago despite growing awareness and initiatives aimed at tackling mental illness,” a new report shows.

The alarming statistics, released in a report by Mission Australia, show almost a quarter of teens surveyed meet the criteria for probable serious mental illness, with girls twice as likely as boys to be affected.

In a nutshell, a Youth Worker provides counselling and makes assessments about the health, safety and wellbeing of young people at risk. Youth Workers facilitate programs to address the behavioural, welfare and protection needs of young clients with additional duties like administration and project planning. Have a look at the comprehensive Youth mental health report “Youth Survey” released by The Black Dog Institute.

Youth Workers intervene, guide and support at-risk youth in their personal, social and educational development. They address the disadvantages young people experience by devising programs and activities to promote wellbeing. Youth Workers collaborate with teachers, social workers, parents and local authorities to help the youth reach their full potential.

Skills required to be a Youth Worker

  1. Good interpersonal skills.
  2. A non-judgemental, caring personality.
  3. Leadership and organisational skills.
  4. Patience, Resilience and Integrity.
  5. A sense of humour.

counselling session

1. Good interpersonal skills. 

You will spend a lot of one-on-one time with youth, many of whom come from troubled backgrounds. You need to be able to communicate openly and clearly with them so that you can build rapport and trust.

2. A non-judgemental, caring personality.

The youth you mentor will come from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. You will need to be open-minded about other people's values and beliefs. Many teens have issues with drugs, alcohol and homelessness. Conversations can centre around neglect and abuse. They need someone who will listen to them and offer solutions with discernment, empathy and understanding.

3. Leadership and organisational skills.

These young adults with look up to you as a role model and seek guidance and advice. You will need to balance the hands-on work with the administrative tasks like report writing, making presentations and writing applications for grants and funding.

4. Patience, Resilience and Integrity.

Your actions will speak louder than words when you are counselling a client. How you behave with others and the advice you give impacts on how you will be perceived. You need to lead by example in order to gain respect and be a role model.

5. A sense of humour.

As a mentor to troubled youth, you need to have your wits about you – as well as your wit. As they say, laughter is the best medicine – especially in times of stress.

A day in the life of a Youth Worker

teenagers working on laptop

So what does a Youth Worker’s job entail? As mentioned earlier, no two days are the same. The work environment is fast-paced, diverse and challenging.

The main part of the job is meeting, counselling and engaging with youth in a one-on-one setting. Your clients can be young people in the 11 to 25-year age bracket and can be referred to you through schools, youth centres, university or faith-based organisations.

You will also need to organise groups and projects that help build self-esteem and confidencein young people like arts-based activities, sporting projects, outdoor camps, etc. These group meetings and events can be held after hours, so a Youth Worker needs to be flexible to work outside regular hours as and when needed.

Routine but important administrative tasks like sending emails, writing reports and scheduling appointments are part and parcel of the job. Other tasks include drawing up business plans, writing reports and identifying sources of funding for projects.

Youth workers also work in partnership with professionals from other organisations like social justice, healthcare, education, youth offending teams and local authorities like the police.

If youth present themselves with issues like sexual abuse or drug and alcohol problems, a Youth Worker will need to assess the situation and might need to refer the client to more specific organisations.

Qualifications needed to become a Youth Worker

Blonde haired woman smiling with notebook

There are many ways to get qualified as a Youth Worker. A good tip is to volunteer at various youth-based not-for-profit organisations to see if you are a good fit for this type of work. If it piques your interest, you can do a Certificate IV in Mental Health (CHC43315) or a Diploma of Counselling (CHC51015) online through Upskilled. Have a look at the Community Services portfolio of courses.

As you gain experience, you might take on a more specialised role working in mental health, or even working as a drug and alcohol counsellor. You can use your Youth Worker experience to gain senior roles like a Senior Youth Worker or Case Manager. You can also move into related fields like community education and social work.

Benefits of Being a Youth Worker

  1. The job is emotionally fulfilling.
  2. Job satisfaction.
  3. Work all over Australia.

1. The job is emotionally fulfilling. 

Since you are so invested in each client, you can get immersed into that person’s life with all its facets. Youth Workers often need professional support to deal with the many elements of the job.

2. Job satisfaction.

The happiness you feel when you make a difference to a young person’s life is like no other. You can see a visible difference from when a client might first meet you as a withdrawn, unhappy, unstable person to then blossom under your care into a happy, well-adjusted individual with future prospects. You get to meet a broad spectrum of people and help them better their lives. You can rest assured that you have made this world a better place.

3. Work all over Australia.

There are Youth Worker jobs in every state and territory of Australia, and great representation in regional centres too. Youth Workers are needed in many communities, from the very small, to the very large

Youth Worker salary

According to Job Outlook and the Department of Employment, Youth Workers earn around $1084 per week, full time, or around $56 000 per annum. Rates of pay vary dependant on experience and location.

Ready to leap into a career in Community Services?

Have a look at Upskilled’s Industry Insight for Community Services, and begin your research about which course you think might suit your needs. 

View all Community Services articles

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