A new paradigm for world wide youth work

For a long time now there has been a conversation going on in youth work. A professional/ para-professional dichotomy which many believe is subversive to the current push for professionalization. A conversation which preaches resistance to the neo-liberal free market push which seeks qualification over experience and cheap labour over appropriate supports.
The issue with requiring professionalism of a vocation is one which is being faced by social work in Australia and has been faced by psychologists. One of the issues which has and will continue to rear its head is if youth workers professionalise they will require higher pay. Higher pay in a free market means less workers. Less workers mean less appropriate service provision. Another issue is that of training and qualification. With over 75% of the current youth work employ holding a two year diploma or less where do we set the bar. The youth workers association in Victoria requires a bachelor degree for full membership. The Department of Human Services however only requires a Certificate IV for its youth work staff.
At Ultimate Youth Worker we believe that the professionalisation debate is currently doing more harm than good to youth work. In the storm and stress that is youth work we need all the boots on the ground that we can possibly muster. At Ultimate Youth Worker we see the current debate thinning out the herd. It makes qualifications the epitome of the profession and damns anyone else. Youth work throughout history has bucked the trends and required youth workers to think outside the square. The current push for professionalization places us firmly in the square.
Any dead fish can float with the current, It takes a live one to swim against it. We need a new paradigm to the idea of current professionalization ideology. We need well trained, well supported qualified youth workers! What we don’t need is a broad swathe approach to attaining this. We need a whole lot more practical wisdom in youth work. We need a whole lot more passion. We need a whole lot more accountability. What we do not need more of is control in the form of restricting sector size. We need to set ourselves apart from the pack.

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Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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