Be kind to youth work students: they are the future of the profession.

As a youth worker with over a decade in practice a number of qualifications and a private practice I have supported many youth workers on placement. In these situations I have tried to provide the best learning environment for each individual student. However many youth workers report that they are little more than gofers. Go for coffee, go for printing, go for this meeting.

This unfortunately is not an uncommon experience of students on placement. As a field placement supervisor I have spoken to dozens of students over the past year about their experience and the vast majority have felt like goffers. Go for coffee, go for my printing, go for … The list is endless. Students, particularly in their final year, need to be allowed to practice their skillset not just watch as it is done by others. They need opportunity to practice in a supervised environment to gain confidence and experience. They need supervisors who can let go of their work and pass it on to them.

If you are going to take on a student this year here are a few ideas to help them and you integrate as much as possible.

  1. Reading is essential to any job but more than a week of reading policies and procedure manuals is over the top.
  2. Regular weekly supervision that addresses different aspects of the role is essential. Dont just ask about tasks, but set articles to be read before sessions to stimulate conversation.
  3. Dont expect students to know everything.
  4. Expect them to be competent at a first job standard.
  5. Give them genuine tasks to sink their teeth in. They may be cheap labour, but they are useless to you as goffers! Remember it is costing the student to do the placement.
  6. Have a plan of action from day one with a number of tasks that must be achieved and review this weekly.
  7. Finally, get to know your student and have space for them to get to know you.    

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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