Future Of Youth Work Yhm2009 Brenda BartlettPresentation 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
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
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?
Casual staff are encouraged to apply
Geographically based Youth worker networks
YAA listing in E-Grapevine
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……..
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!
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.