Future Of Youth Work Yhm2009 Brenda Bartlett
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  • I’ve been involved in teaching youth work students and or negotiating student placements for them since I first began working at UWS in 1990. Our youth work program ends in 2010 and that is the reason I was inspired to put an abstract into the YAA Conference Organising Committee this year. I have consulted with a wide range of people including those who were involved in development of the TAFE Youth Work Diploma back in the mid 1980s and the various youth work degrees at the University of Western Sydney at the Bankstown Campus at Milperra.
  • For this paper, I contacted a range of people to get their ideas on a number of topics relevant to YAA’s membership, although the majority of my sample were from the Western Suburbs of Sydney and the Inner City suburbs of Sydney. The findings are Sydney-centric, however, they should be of interest to staff from around the state! I hope we are able to have a discussion on the issues raised in this paper at the end of the presentation.
  • New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia have offered degree courses for a number of years. The Australian Institute of Welfare and Community Workers (AIWCW) has accredited a number of university degrees and TAFE youth work diploma courses. This includes some Christian Colleges that offer Youth Welfare and Youth Ministry courses.
  • After looking at TAFE websites, I telephoned Ultimo TAFE to receive this information. The proposed youth work courses are at Blue Mountains, Meadowbank and Coonamble TAFES for 2010.
  • There are also a Post Graduate Certificate in Human Services (Youth Work) at ACU and a Graduate Certificate in Community & Youth Work at Griffith University Brisbane, QLD; there may be other universities offering youth work, but this is all I was able to locate.
  • The first subjects in youth work were part of a welfare program offered in the early 1980s. while the first courses in youth work were two year associate diplomas offered at Milperra College of Advanced Education in the mid 1980s, which changed its name to the Macarthur Institute of Higher Education, which later became the University of Western Sydney Macarthur in 1989, and then the University of Western Sydney in 2000. The courses included the Associate Diploma of Youth Work, Bachelor of Social Science (Youth Work), Bachelor of Youth Work and finally the Bachelor of Community Welfare (Youth Work). A number of students have completed diplomas and degrees in youth work from the mid 1980s to the present. We previously had an elective called “Residential Youth Services” that covered the topic of youth homelessness, however that unit has not been offered since the early 1990s. Vaughan Bowie was instrumental in setting up the youth work courses at UWS and remained active in the courses until 2008. .
  • There was a lack of casework skills in some of the youth work courses.
  • At UWS we have had a wide range of students who over the years have enrolled in our youth work courses; they vary from students who have excellent academic records to those who don’t. Primarily we attract school leavers who are female aged 17-20 and many have had experience running a youth group or bible group in their church with a range of views from conservative to progressive ideas. Another group are those who are political, along with those who may have once been clients of youth workers or who had received welfare services. There are a small group who have completed TAFE courses or Child and Youth Diplomas from Canada and many of these students have employment in the human services sector. You can see the mismatch as many agencies want older students and/or male students. The male/female gender divide of enrolled students is about the same in both the Bachelor of Community Welfare including the Youth Work Program and our Bachelor of Social Work at UWS with around 10% being males.
  • The academic staff in the school both supported and fought for the youth work courses for many years despite the low enrolments, until the university said they would no longer offer and fund units that had less than 25 students enrolled in them.
  • We get some excellent students from TAFE but we also get some TAFE graduates who really struggle academically at UWS. A former colleague described “ the students who came from TAFE to UWS varied between brilliant and abysmal” while another former colleague responded fondly to one in particular who said she was bored working in a factory and decided to try to get into our program. She was surprised we accepted her and said that nobody in her family had completed high school.
  • This person teaches at TAFE and has taught in the youth work course at UWS.
  • Most people interviewed were very content with the range of short term training courses on offer to staff and took advantage of them. The Youth Accommodation Association of NSW, Youth Action and Policy Association, and The Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies INC. (ACWA) provide a wide range of short term courses for youth workers and other staff employed in the sector along with Government Funding Bodies, however, the short courses do not replace a TAFE or university qualification.
  • Mark Lack and I as part of a Bachelor of Social Sciences, interviewed a number of youth refuge, medium term and long term staff in the Western Suburbs of Sydney. Our findings revealed that most workers did not have tertiary qualifications, including 1/3 who left school at year 10, although a number of the staff were both working and studying. It was interesting that the research suggested that the management committee membership in age and ethnicity often mirrored the staff employed in the youth work service. Some managers interviewed for this paper, reported that they employ students as casual staff while are some full-time staff are studying part-time in a range of courses.
  • Many youth work agencies do not want young students and boundary issues sometime arise. So again there is a mismatch between what the field wants and what we can offer. Some young students make excellent youth workers, however, they often do not have the life experience to deal with the issues facing the clients of the services. A lot of youth workers first started in the field as people in their 20s and early 30s.
  • The type of learning varies from agency to agency and the capabilities and personalities vary from student to student with some more suited to a residential environment then others. The benefits is they are able to complete useful projects and programs and sometimes become future casual staff or permanent staff for the agency.
  • They only take older TAFE students.
  • This same manager did take a young student on placement 15 years ago and now she is a manager of another program within the service!
  • What works best? Some staff complained that local newspapers were not good, others faulted the Sydney Morning Herald. Most staff seem to use a combination of the above. How staff are recruited has changed; Twenty to thirty years ago it was through the Sydney Morning Herald and the CES; perhaps informal networks and word of mouth were used.
  • Some staff I interviewed said they recruited some of those the students who successfully completed field placements to become casual staff in their agencies.
  • Some managers felt they had to train staff themselves in addition to sending them off to complete short courses including skills in case management.
  • Most staff said having good communication skills was essential!
  • Some staff felt perhaps they were now ageist when it came to employing young staff.
  • When I interviewed someone who has employed our graduates she spoke about the loss of the degree as loss for the profession Andrew Lochhead at the University of Victoria in Canada was writing about how the ‘field straddles the boundaries between professions of welfare, medicine, mental health and education’ (2001,73) and I think youth work in Australia also straddles several the same professional boundaries, however, I am not sure if it a concern of staff. Any ideas?
  • Literature on professions suggests that having a code of ethics is one of the conditions to a profession! Would having a common code of ethics change practice or make recruitment easier?
  • Any ideas on this? FCYR was set up as a community organisation with a community based management committee; when I commenced working there, the original management committee had resigned the Fairfield Community Resource Centre’s management committee was auspicing it until a new management committee could be formed. What is fascinating from that time is that we had three committee members who were District Officers known as DOs from the Department of Youth and Community Services (YACS) who volunteered at the refuge and did night shifts every week and then went into the office to work 8 hours! All the staff were encouraged to attend the management committee meetings! I suppose we have all become more professional in our policies and procedures from OHS to award conditions and employment practices. Some staff feel there are fewer resources for young people and fewer places to refer them to once they leave the service. Most youth workers would use the terms “to empower young people” so they have the skills to make important decisions about issues that will affect their lives and general well being; Victor Wong refers to this as a ‘poststructural understanding of youth needs and youth work practice’ (Wong, 2004, 11). Any ideas?
  • These are a few of the challenges workers shared with me, however, partnerships can bring great benefits but also pose challenges for the services involved. There have been big changes in the way the Government works; from outsourcing government services and changes in the relationship between government as a purchaser and not-for-profit organisations as providers of government services( HRSC 1998; Nowland-Froeman 1998; Neville 19999; DoCS 2001; Darcy 2002, Brown and Keast 2005; O’Shea, 2006 as sited in Sidoti, Banks, Darcy, O’Shea, Leonard, Atie, DiNicola, Stevenson, & Moor, 2009, 3.)
  • According to an article in the September 2009 ‘Board Matters, newsletter for Non-profit boards’ on How do services survive economic downturn Examining opportunities to merge with or acquire other non-profit organisations was listed as the first dot point followed by cutting staff salaries as the second dot point. This was adapted from Managing in Tough Times- May 2009 Nonprofit Leaders Survey Update by William Foster, Gail Perreault and Sarah Sable, published by the Bridgespan Group June 2009. What does this group think about these first two options?
  • How many youth refuges were there back in 1979? FCYR was meant to have been the fourth crisis refuge to be set up……One refuge that was set up in the late 1970s was called “Shanti House” when it was first began. Later it moved from to Erskineville, it changed its name to the “Baldwin Street Project” and then to the “Lillian Howell Memorial Project” (Lillian’s) after the woman who had written the submission which got the funding; she died a week before the money came though”.
  • On the 28 th of September 2009, I heard on the ABC local radio station the staggering figure that 54% of the unemployed in the USA were young people under the age 24. During times of economic downturns, even more so, there will always be a need to provide a wide range of services to young people as more people become homeless. Young people are being particularly disadvantaged in the present employment market and this is a world wide trend in many OECD countries. For small not-for-profit organisations, Purchase of Service Contracting (POSC) represents a big shift in practice (Kramer 1994 as sited in Darcy, Waterford, & McIvor, 2009, 7).
  • I’m still passionate about this field!

Future Of Youth Work Yhm2009 Brenda Bartlett Future Of Youth Work Yhm2009 Brenda Bartlett Presentation Transcript

  • Youth Homelessness Matters YAA Conference, Tweed Heads 12 & 13 October 2009 Future of Youth Work; youth work education and training in NSW. Who do you want working with homeless young people and who gets employed? Brenda Bartlett School of Social Sciences University of Western Sydney
  • Introduction
    • In this workshop I will explore the development and relevance of youth work courses in the tertiary sector in NSW, training opportunities for staff, student placements, the recruitment and retention of casual and full-time youth workers/youth housing workers in the sector both past and present and some of the opportunities and challenges facing those employed in the sector in 2009.
  • Who did I consult?
    • Youth work graduates who are managers,
    • Youth work graduates in the industry,
    • Managers of services for homeless youth,
    • Youth workers and ex-youth workers,
    • Academics and teachers from UWS and TAFE courses, both present and retired,
    • Members of management committees and Boards of refuges and youth accommodation services.
  • Youth Work Courses in Australia
    • There are now five universities that I have located, that offer specific youth work degrees in Australia.
    • The University of Western Sydney (UWS) has offered youth work courses since the mid 1980s, however, the last intake of students was in 2008 and final year core units will be taught for the last time in 2010.
  • Youth Work Courses in NSW
    • TAFE NSW offers Youth Work IV Certificates at Ultimo, Sutherland, Newcastle, Blue Mountains, Campbelltown, Meadowbank, Ourimbah, Nowra, Mt Druitt , Narrandera, and Shellharbour.
    • TAFE NSW offers Diplomas in Youth Work at Ultimo, Sutherland, Shellharbour, and Newcastle.
  • Universities in Australia offering youth work courses:
    • Bachelor of Social Science (Youth Welfare) Christian Heritage College, QLD
    • Bachelor of Social Science (double major Youth Work & Welfare & Community Work) Joonadalup WA
    • Bachelor of Social Science (Youth Work) at ACU Melbourne VIC
    • Bachelor of Social Science (Youth Work) RMIT, Melbourne, VIC
    • Bachelor of Arts Youth Work -Tabor College in Adelaide, SA
  • University of Western Sydney
    • 1985+ Associate Diploma in Youth Work
    • 1990+ Associate Diploma in Community Studies (Youth Work)
    • 1991+ Bachelor of Social Sciences (Youth Work)
    • 1998+ Bachelor of Youth Work
    • 2004+ Bachelor of Community Welfare (Youth Work)
  • Does it matter, that youth work won’t be offered at university level in NSW?
    • “ It is a shame if a youth worker who is committed and serious about extending their learning in a great profession is unable to study and gain a degree in youth work (or with a focus in youth work).” (TAFE teacher)
    • “ This is very sad- a sign that big business (ie UWS ) does not value Youth Work as much as it values say Economists or Business Analysts. Social Workers are not Youth Workers.” (TAFE teacher)
    • “ If I was in a pessimistic mood I might say that youth work in the future will be diminished as more young people will not be attracted to a profession that lacks degree status and is comparatively poorly paid.” (TAFE teacher)
  • How do you feel about losing the youth work course at UWS?
    • “ It sends a message of youth work not being important enough or not being a real profession; we who work with young people know this to be untrue” (TAFE teacher).
    • “ It will also means that many youth workers (with only certificate and diploma qualifications in youth work) remain among the lowest paid in the social service professions as they may not be able to use their qualifications to argue for higher pay as happens in other professions” (TAFE teacher ).
  • Reflections on youth work at UWS:
    • “ Right from the beginning, students were to learn a variety of skills and then pick an area of expertise to follow… Casework and counselling weren’t for 18 year olds; you need more maturity, experience and training to work with families in an in depth way or a therapeutic approach.”
  • Who are the students who enrol in youth work courses at university?
    • The majority tend to be school leavers between the ages of 17-21.
    • Young women are the majority of the cohort with around 10% of the enrolments male.
    • Many have experience running youth groups in their churches and paid work experience in the hospitality and/or retail areas.
    • TAFE graduates; many who have employment in the sector.
    • Some international students from Canada who have completed a child and youth diploma; most with paid youth work experience.
  • What were the challenges around providing a youth work degree at university?
    • “ It was always difficult to attract large numbers (of students) to the youth work degree in NSW.”
    • Enrolment numbers varied from 3 - 32 students in a given year over the past 19 years.
    • The low enrolments in the course, meant the course was often singled out for attention and therefore vulnerable to ‘cuts’.
  • Who are the students who enrol in Youth Work Certificate IV and Diploma courses at TAFE?
    • The majority tend to be school leavers.
    • Most are between the ages of 16-35+.
    • Young women are often 80+% of the cohort.
    • People who have struggled in the state education system.
    • Young people who have a range of typical welfare issues to deal with.
    • Mature age people who want a practical qualification and those who have a trade qualification and want to re-train.
  • What are the challenges of providing a TAFE youth work course according to teachers?
    • “ Diversity in student background and ability can be a benefit or challenge for teaching. In recent years there has been a trend towards students with serious literacy and mental health issues, as well as 'attitude' problems (students who do not want to work and/ or want to participate meaningfully in class situations).”
    • “ At the same time we have seen a large number of students aged 17-19 years and most in this age group do not have the maturity to take advantage of an adult learning environment, and we have extreme difficulties placing them in agencies for workplace learning where clients may be older than the students!”
    • “ Placements in youth work can be difficult to secure and we have experienced more 'problems' by our students than in the past. Again it seems to be the 'attitude' and lack of maturity and motivation that are factors. Having said that problem placements, are a small number - but cause intense frustration and embarrassment for teachers”.
  • Additional challenges for TAFE Youth Work teachers:
    • “ The age of the students ( I have had many 17 year olds), the low levels of literacy among some students, the number of students with mental health issues and the number of students who are experiencing poverty and /or homelessness.”
    • “ I seem to spend a lot of time in a 'counselling' role for some of my students”.
  • In-service and short youth work training opportunities
    • Peak bodies like YAA, YAPA, and ACWA offer a range of training opportunities for those already in employment. SAAP also provides free training. They tend to be for a short duration and offer very practical information and skills training.
    • Is this sufficient for the industry?
  • EEO Research in 1980s
    • Staff from a number of youth refuges in the late 1980s were interviewed about their qualifications.
    • Around one third of the sample did not have any qualifications besides a Year 10 leaving certificate.
    • I assume but I am not sure, this has changed 20 years on!
    • A number of staff were working full-time and studying part-time.
  • Youth Work Student Placements
    • One way university and TAFE students get experience working with young people is through placements.
    • A small number of youth refuges and youth accommodation services accept student placements every year, while others periodically accept them.
    • Some services will not accept any students under 21.
    • Others routinely offer placements with some students becoming casual youth workers.
  • Student Placements continued:
    • Placements vary according to the individual course.
    • Usually students will be expected to complete a learning contract or educational plan that identifies learning opportunities and tasks to be completed.
    • Students often have an orientation period with the first few days, observing and reading policy manuals.
    • Students are involved in a range of topics from updating contact lists, assisting with AGM Reports, sitting in on interviews, assessments, case conferences with the permission of the young people, organising outings, assisting young people with cooking and cleaning, designing pamphlets, planning and co-facilitating living skills sessions to assisting with small grant applications.
  • What are the benefits of accepting students on placement?
    • Additional work is completed
    • Projects are completed, groups run, and new ideas for activities
    • Students learn more about youth homelessness
    • Future staff
    • Innovative ideas
    • Partnerships with universities
    • Collaborative research projects
  • Managers’ views of taking student placements:
    • “ if we have the capacity we take them; won’t take anybody under 21; they need to be more a couple years older than the oldest resident. Young students are not favourable; they need to be somebody who has potential to be employed as a casual.” (Manager)
    • “ They are more work than they are worth!” (Manager)
  • Why agencies sometimes don’t accept student placements?
    • “ The young ones are at the brunt of critical incidents!” (Manager of Service)
    • “ They are a ‘real hit and miss; they need to have enthusiasm and aptitude; it is just as much work supervising a young uni student as supervising a client!” (Manager with several years experience)
  • How do you recruit staff?
    • Mycareer.com
    • Seek.com
    • NCOSS website
    • SMH
    • Casual staff are encouraged to apply
    • Geographically based Youth worker networks
    • YAA listing in E-Grapevine
    • Local newspapers
    • Informal networks
    • ABRS
    • Some large NGOs recruit on their own website
  • Recruitment of staff in 2009
    • What are managers, staff, and/or management committees looking for when they recruit casual and permanent staff who work with homeless young people and young adults?
    • “ We look for experience and relevant qualifications. In my role as a management member for other NGOs, I have been through the recruitment process many times. This often leaves me with a feeling of dread to be honest.” (Manager)
  • Employment of staff
    • “ It is hard; we usually advertise three times and carry a vacancy for three months. They tend to have the highest qualification …is a youth work certificate or they have a degree or are getting a degree. This group tends to move on in one year or 18 months.” (Manager of crisis youth service)
    • “ Often you get people with no or limited experience due to the pay; where I think you’ve got to have a combination of everything-not just a case manager. You’ve got to be a life skills worker, case worker, family worker, counsellor and family mediator” (Manager who had worked in SAAP funded services and with state wards)
  • Employment of staff
    • Others found it relatively easy to locate good staff.
    • “ I have not had problems recruiting; I get phone calls requesting to do relief work and I have 20 casuals at present. There are plenty of workers in the Blue Mountains looking for work.” (Manager)
    • “ We haven’t had any problems in the last few years recruiting, mainly due to have a small team that has stayed stable for several years” (Manager)
  • Employment of staff continued:
    • This also varied region to region and from refuge to long term youth accommodation or housing programs.
    • “ It may be different; it might be the region. I always had 7-8 applicants with degrees in another area.” (Manager)
    • “ We got staff who were often studying or doing other things so that youth work was a stepping stone to another career and that is to be expected.” (Ex-youth housing worker and ex-management committee member)
  • Who was employed?
    • “ Often people who lived close by who wanted flexibility. The hardest thing was staff who had partners who after a while got a bit jack of the shift work. Staff had to be flexible enough in their lives to work Friday and Saturday nights and work late.”
    • “ We got community minded staff who were happy to take on other projects which was always good. We got staff who had good housekeeping generally as they had to as they needed to work with young people as you know with shopping cooking cleaning etc.” (Ex-youth worker from an Inner West Youth Service)
  • Recruitment-Who do you want?
    • “ I don’t just look at experience but how they perform in the interview; I’m open to new graduates who have common sense, good boundaries and are energetic; you need to be able to trust that staff and teach them;…. need passion and drive.” (Manager)
    • “ Need some kind of qualification- as little as a Certificate 1V; we had to lower our requirements as we were so short of staff ; we prefer that applicants have some experience with young people and some experience in residential care, that they are able to do shift work and have a driver’s license (but not on P-Plates). Need proven capacity for working in difficult situations although usually they have two on a shift.” (Manager)
  • Problems with employing young workers
    • “ We had a difficult situation with a young TAFE student; who completed the placement and then was employed here. He commenced a relationship with a client and didn’t let us know. The young woman turned 18, left care, they got engaged, and now they’re split up. It was complex as he kept this information from us”.
  • Youth Work Profession
    • Is Youth Work a profession?
    • Do we need a code of ethics to be a profession?
    • YAPA have grappled with this; YAA has discussed this; Is it possible for youth accommodation services to share a common code of ethics?
    • “ The struggle of the field to be recognised by other professions, and within society at large continues to challenge us” (Lochhead, 2001, 74).
  • Code of Ethics or Charter of Rights
    • Does each agency have their own Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct?
    • Housing NSW has a combined code of ethics and conduct…..
    • Should YAA services have their own code of ethics or use the code of ethics from the various backgrounds of employees?
  • 30 Years on ……
    • There are some big challenges and opportunities for those employed to work with homeless young people; some issues have remained the same while others have changed over the period.
  • In preparing for this workshop, I asked “What are the challenges facing the sector?”
    • Funding including tendering for other programs
    • Decisions around merging and partnerships
    • Staffing (recruiting staff)
    • Lack of exit strategies, outcomes and resources for young people (eg not SAAP services)
    • Inability to get DoCS to assess young people.
    • Locating members willing to volunteer their time to be on management committees and boards of management.
  • CHALLENGES: How do services survive economic downturn?
    • Examine opportunities to merge with or acquire other non-profit organisations
    • Cut staff salaries (Board Matters, June 2009)
  • Reflecting back over the past 30 years….
    • How was youth homelessness defined?
    • Who was housed?
    • What was the role of volunteers?
    • Who were employed to work with homeless young people?
    • What was the Government in child protection issues?
    • How has the Sector providing services to homeless young people changed?
  • The future of youth work?
    • I don’t have a magic ball, however, we’ll always need youth workers especially as youth seem to be “hit hardest” in economic downturns in western countries.
    • In the future we can only hope that youth workers are paid better.
    • Students from a wide range of tertiary studies will continue to want to work with or assist young people.
    • There will remain a wide range of professionals who provide services to young people.
    • Young people are our future and some former clients will become employed in the sector……..
  • Thank you
    • I want to thank all the twenty six people who talked to me on the phone, responded to my questions by email and/or made time for interviews. I learned heaps!
    • And of course a big thank you to the conference organisers!
  • References
    • BEST Strengths Youth Worker Practice; An Evaluation of Building Exemplary Systems for Training Youth Workers; A Summary Report, Centre for School & Community Services, Academy for Educational Development, New York City, 2002.
    • ‘ Actions Organisations are Taking to Survive the Downturn’, Board Matters , Vol 9, No 2, September 2009, 6).
    • Darcy, M., Waterford, M., & McIvor, J. ‘To Market, to Market’… ‘Competitive Tendering in the Community Sector’, July 2009, Western Sydney Community Forum, Sector Connect, * Social Justice & Social Change Research Centre.
    • Lochhead, A. (2002) ‘Reflection on Professionalization in Child and Youth Care’ Child & Youth Care Forum, 30 (2), April 200l Human Sciences Press, 73-82.
    • Sidoti, E., Banks, R., Darcy, M., O’Shea, P., Leonard, R., Atie, R., DiNicola, M., Stevenson, S. & Moor, D. (2009) A Question of Balance: Principles, contracts and the government –not- for-profit relationship, July 2009, PIAC, Whitlam Institute with UWS, & Social Justice & Social Change Research Centre, UWS.
    • University of Western Sydney Calendar for 2000 .
    • Wong, V. (2004) ‘From Personal to Structural; Towards critical change in youth work practice’, Youth Studies Australia, vol 23, No 3,10-16.