Developing the leaders of the future: youth work qualifications aren’t enough!

I was having a conversation with a diploma student today that made the hair on the back of my kneck stand on edge. He said to me without a hint of a joke that once he had finished his two year course that he would be qualified enough to become a manager in the organisation that he volunteers in. I remember having a conversation with a couple of my mates as we were coming to the end of our degree and a number of them believed that they had reached the pinnacle of youth service leadership. In Victoria the Youth Workers Association and many of the proponents of professionalisation have placed an inordinate amount of weight on qualifications and their ability to measure leadership in the sector.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that a three year degree does give you some bragging rights over someone who has only done a year… but it doesn’t necessarily mean you are a leader in the sector. Victoria’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, one of the leaders of the sector, attained no formal qualification but holds an honorary degree in youth work. Many of the best youth workers I know have minimal formal youth work qualifications. Qualifications do not make you a leader.
Youth workers are looking for leaders in the field.
There is no denying that the youth sector is in need of strong leaders to guide it into the future. What would this leadership look like??? Here are a few thoughts:
  1. Focused on effective results not efficient KPI’s.
  2. Advocates for sector wide reforms including; better funding, focus on holistic interventions and staff support.
  3. Developers of new research and practice literature which brings a youth work specific body of work to academia.
  4. A core focus on our clients need, not our funding bodies “requirements”. 
  5. The ability to inspire the next generation of youth workers to expand the profession.
  6. The wisdom to change with the times and not follow blindly other human service professions
  7. A focus on character rather than qualifications when recruiting new staff.
  8. A recognition of the role of youth workers by broader society
Not one of these rely on a person holding a qualification. What would you add to the list?

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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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  1. I have Dip YW. I remember our teacher told us that the chourse was designed so at the end we could manage a service. Even though this was the aim, she said it wasn’t realistic!

    I’, looking at dowen the track possibly doing Deg SW. I think this will open up more doors but won’t necessarily make me a better YW.

    In my current role as a Res YW, I work with some SWs straight out of Uni. THey are more qualified than me but I don’t believe they are better Youth Workers. I actually believe they should be given some YW specific trainig before they start. (EG engaging YP and Managing difficult behaviour).

    In the mean time I plan on doing as much short course training as I can!

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