You need a mentor

Podcast 009: You need a mentor

You need a mentor
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You need a mentor!!!

In todays Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast “You need a mentor”, Aaron gets us thinking about the need for mentors in youth work. We look at five things we need to do to find and get a mentor. He also leaves us with a challenge. Here is the overview.

Find a worthy mentor

Check them out! If you are looking to become a better you in your personal life, your job wherever then you want someone who is going to be able to do that. There are a lot of people who make their living telling you what to do who have never done the things they sprout. Snake oil sellers.

You want to find a person who has lived a worthy life. Who has made mistakes and learnt from them. Who dosen’t have all the answers but has a network of people to help them. Who sees their family as more important than the work.

The key here is to see if their public face and private are the same or if they wear masks. Check out their social media profiles, ask people who know them about their personality and behaviour.

Mentoring doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment. What does this person have to enrich your life or work?

If they are not a fit move on to someone that is.

Be mentor worthy

Nothing will end your search for a mentor faster than if you are not ready. There is an old proverb that goes “when the student is ready the master will appear”. This fits perfectly in mentoring. Mentor will check you out too. You don’t have to be perfect but you have to want to strive towards it. You need to be teachable and open to being challenged. You need to recognise your limitations and know what makes you tick. You need to know your values and why you want a mentor.

Your work must be of an exceptional level. If it’s not you better be able to show that you are trying. You need to be a learner at heart, taking every opportunity to learn a new skill. You must be reflective.

If you tick these boxes you will be in a great place to find and get a mentor. If you don’t tick the boxes it doesn’t mean you are lost. Work on the things that you are lacking and realise that most people will overlook your lack of skills and experience for a bit more passion.

Make the ask

If the potential mentor is worthy and you are a worthy candidate then it’s time to ask them to be your mentor.

  • Don’t be a crazy fanboy of girl. Don’t ask for the person to “be your mentor” right off the bat. It too big of an ask at the first meeting. Get to know them first.
  • Ask for an initial meeting. Something informal, over coffee maybe. Remember to keep it to less than an hour. Come with questions that you’re prepared to ask, but let the conversation flow. This is the best place for you to check out if they are going to be a good fit for you. If all looks good Ask if they would be willing to mentor you.
  • After that initial meeting don’t forget to drop a thank you note to the potential mentor

Don’t ask a yes man

This is a side note to the ask. You don’t want someone who will agree with you all the time. Difference is good. You want someone who will compliment the skills you have and the behavioural style that you have. For more info on this check out our blog posts on DISC. D.I.S.C. The best person to mentor you is one who understands you and brings complimentary knowledge and skills.

Have more than one

In our self care cast we spoke about the need to have multiple people keep you accountable. Similarly no one person will have all the answers. Seek out a few people who can speak into different aspects of your life. Career, family, personal, faith, future. Some people see this as having a board of advisors for your life. They don’t need to all be at the same time. In this case though having more than one person is great.

Give back (be a mentor for others)

If you have been a youth worker for at least 5 years you should be seeking out new youth workers that you can mentor. If you had a new person every year and they went on to mentor other youth workers the numbers grow exponentially. As a sector we would have the most well supported staff ever. We need this so much as most youth workers will bail on the job before they make 5 years. A bit more support will go a very long way.

We challenge you to seek out worthy mentee. It doesn’t have to be someone in your organisation… just someone in the sector.

To support the podcast, donate here!


Mentoring doesn’t have to be a lifetime commitment. Great mentors can come in and out of your life at the weirdest times and that is ok. If you don’t have a mentor get one. If you have been in the field for five years or more we challenge you to be mentoring new youth workers. We know this is going to help you and the youth sector as a whole.

Stay frosty.

7 signs you need more supervision

7 signs you need more supervisionYou need more supervision!

When we tell people what we do at Ultimate Youth Worker and that youth workers need more supervision we often hear “But I get supervision at work?”. When we unpack this with staff members what they mean is that their boss knows something about their caseload or program and occasionally allows them to do some professional development. When we ask how often they get this supervision most say that it is sporadic at best. 

In the AYAC National Youth Work Snapshot 2013 a survey of youth workers showed that 8.4% of surveyed youth workers had never had a supervision session and around 51.7% receive it less than once every three months. As an industry that claims professional status this is appalling. It is no wonder that the sector in Australia turns over staff at 23% every year. Supervision is important to staff retention. The most unfortunate part of this is that the average youth worker doesn’t know what a good supervision framework looks like and so they do not see a problem until it is too late. With this at the forefront of our minds here are the 7 signs that you are not getting enough supervision.

Apply for individual supervision today

  1. You are bored at work. One of the most damaging things that can happen to a youth worker in their role is boredom. I know what you are thinking. How can I be bored when I am up to my eyeballs in trying to meet KPI’s. When we meet youth workers for external supervision one of the biggest issues we see is that they are not being challenged. At least not in the right ways. We all need to be stretched just a little bit to be our best self. We need to try new things. We need to find new solutions. If you do the same thing day in and day out you get bored. If you are bored in your role you need more supervision.
  2. You see supervision as punishment rather than development. Maidment & Beddoe (2012) believe that supervision must be placed at the core of professional development for staff, “We want to place supervision at the heart of professional development, which is career-long and where, via diverse learning activities, practitioners refine and augment their knowledge, develop skills, and undertake supervision to enhance critically reflective practice”. If you see it as a chore in which you will be rebuked for doing the wrong thing rather than encouraged towards best practice then you need more supervision.
  3. Your boss only talks about tasks in ‘supervision’ sessions. If like most youth workers your boss is giving you their version of supervision which most likely is checking in that you are completing all your tasks then you are not getting supervision. You are getting the administration part of good supervision. Making sure your cases are going well and your paperwork is done is only a small part of it. Tasks take up less than a third of good supervision practice. Hence you need more supervision.
  4. You have less than one hour once a fortnight. Best practice in supervision says you should be getting at least one hour of reflective supervision every two weeks. If you are not getting the opportunity to develop you as a person and as a practitioner as well as to deal with the admin side of your job then you are not developing as a youth worker. This takes more than one session a month or God forbid one a year. Supervision takes time, but it also pays dividends. In our experience, for every hour spent in supervision it gives you an ROI of 24 hours of exceptional practice.
  5. You have started to look for a new job. You don’t necessarily hate the job you have but you are starting to feel that if you don’t move on the job will eat you alive. This sense of needing to begin a career search is often where we see most of our clients. Either they or their manager refer them on in an attempt to keep them going. But its hard to stop the Titanic sinking with a bucket. In short if you have started to look for a new job it may be too late. This is always a clear sign you need more supervision.
  6. You are not up to date with youth work theory and practice. One of the key reasons for youth work supervision is to keep up to date with best practices and current research. If you are not getting this then you are not getting supervision. If you are not being moulded into a better youth worker every session then something is not right. Your supervisor must grow your knowledge and help you to critically reflect.
  7. You don’t remember the last time supervision looked like this. If your supervision seems lacking after reading this you are not alone. most youth workers we speak to feel the same way. Most managers and team leaders wish they could provide this level of support too. The key is too recognise it and move forward. If you feel like you need more supervision then get it. If your organisation won’t provide it Then get an external supervisor who will.

If you have read this post and you are now wondering what to do then we suggest you look at the links throughout the post as they are a rich source of wisdom in this area. If you can’t find a supervisor in your organisation that is able to provide good supervision then you really only have a few options. Stay and suck it up. Stay and find an external supervisor. Leave the organisation you are currently at for something better. Unfortunately, the stats would say they are few and far between.

At Ultimate Youth Worker we want to see a well supported youth sector. It is why we began back in 2012 and why we started providing supervision from day one. If you need a benchmark then use the resources on this site. If you want us to supervise you we do face to face in Melbourne and Skype throughout the world. Our biggest wish though is that your organisation will provide you with the best supervision.

Apply for individual supervision today

14 online tools youth workers need to use

14-online-toolsOnline tools you need

We live in a time of myth and legend. Apparently Youth workers are mystical creatures who need little money or time to effect massive changes… At least that seems to be the neoliberal view of us. Another myth is that we are all hip and cool with mad computer skills. I admit to having spent my fair share of time on an Xbox or play station over the years but that is the level I play at. A few years ago I was affectionately know in my team as the IT guy because I knew how to use Microsoft Outlook and use our reporting system. Most youth workers are tech novices. So we thought it would be good to have a list of online tools every youth worker should have access to. Most of these can be accessed by a smart phone, tablet or the dreaded PC. So if your service still chains you to your desk you can still use them… But I would say you need to speak to management about moving to portable devices 🙂


Evernote online toolEvernote is one of the great online tools for organising all of your thoughts. It is like having a notebook in your pocket that you can put ideas into quickly and easily without needing a pen and paper. You can arrange your notes into ‘Notebooks’ to easily combine relevant ideas together. It takes pictures, adds weblinks, allows you to set reminders and even draw pictures. If you’re like me and have ideas about many topics and you have scrap paper or multiple notpads everywhere this program is for you.

You can have it on two devices for free.


Dropbox online toolI was presenting off site last week when the USB I had my presentation on died. Completely fried. I almost went into a melt down. What was I going to do. Enter Dropbox. I called a colleague and had them drop the presentation into our Dropbox and with the help of the internet gods it was there when I logged in. Dropbox is a cloud based storage space where you can upload and download all manner of digital documents at the touch of a button. The free version gives you 2GB to use which is more than enough for most of us. Never be caught out again with great online tools!

Cloud based so all you need is an internet connection


Canva online toolIf you are like me you are graphically challenged. I cant draw and I struggle to use tools to get beautiful flyers out of my head and onto paper. A former student put me on to Canva, online tools for those of us who are graphically challenged that is literally already set up for us. Need a flyer for a program… Done. A Picture for Facebook about your event…Done. Literally any visual marketing you need all available at the click of a mouse.

Won’t replace your marketing team, but its part way there.

Adobe Colour Wheel

Colour wheel online toolOur good friends at put us on to this one. Being graphically challenged it also bodes that we are colour challenged. yellow goes with everything right??? If you need some help in this department whether for flyers, presentations or anything else you can think of Adobe Colour Wheel provides a template to help you choose colour combinations.

Since using this more of our flyers are able to be read.


inspiration online toolIf you are a visual person you know all about mind mapping. Its an amazing way of getting thoughts out of your head and into some semblance of order. If you like lists a jumble of circles on a page makes no sense at all. Inspiration solves our communication problem. It takes either a list or a mind map and converts it for the other. I mind map when I am dreaming and visioning and then I click the button and I have a list of tasks to complete.

This is gold. If you need some inspiration to get things out of your head this is it.


Prezi online toolIf I have to sit through another presentation by someone who has just found Microsoft Powerpoint or Apples Keynote I may just explode. Boring presentations on basic themes with too many swishes, lets be honest we’ve all been there. Prezi takes the hard work out of designing a slide deck that looks good and has animation with its online tools. Some really cool templates with fill in fields turn a lackluster presentation into a wow instilling performance.

Cloud based and downloadable files make this a great tool for presentations.


Psychdrugs online toolMore and more young people seem to experience mental health issues that need medication. When doing intake forms I would regularly hear the names of medications that I had no idea about. I’m not a pharmacist. What they do, what dosage is high or low, the common names and much more is at your fingertips with Psychdrugs. Easy to use and with most mental health medications listed this is a top tool.

I have used this since 2008 and have not been disappointed.

The Google Platform

google-logo-1200x630I have only recently been introduced to the amazing array of programs that google has in its arsenal. We all know the search engine is great and may even have a Gmail email account, but there is so much more to their online tools. spreadsheets, word processing, calendars, groups, hangouts, translate… The list goes on. If you are looking for free and amazing usability then the Google platform has it all.

 There is a reason people benchmark themselves against Google.


iTunesU online toolKeeping yourself educated is essential to great youth work practice. You should get more qualified than you are right now. If you cant commit to a course of study for some reason right now then iTunesU might be the thing for you. Download a podcast style uni course for free and listen in your car or on the train. There are hundreds of great courses that will help you become a great youth worker.

I just finished listening to UC Berkeley Sociology 101 course…Fantastic

Survey Monkey

Surveymonkey online toolMost services struggle to get feedback from their young people and when you stick a paper survey in their hand it usually ends in the bin. Survey Monkey is a free tool that alows you to create great surveys in minutes and send them via email, facebook, whatever system you want. The best bit is it aggregates all the data. You just need to read it.

The free tool limits the size and type of surveys, but unless you do a lot its fine.


kindle online toolIf you read a lot then you probably use Kindle. Bring all your books, journal articles, ebooks together in one space and get reading on the go. If you travel a bit it means you don’t have to pack heavy books in your bag. I struggle with reading on screens sometimes however you can deal with that for the ease of use and access to a huge library of content merely a click away. The kindle app for iPad is also a great investment.

Best for reading on the go.


bitly online toolIf you send emails or use facebook you have probably sent a link before. Most people just cut and paste and then you end up with lines of nonsense which are the link. Bitly can shorten the link into something much more manageable. It also has the added functionality of allowing you to see who clicks on the links and from where. Some features are paid but you don’t really need them if you are just shortening links.

If you don’t have analytics for your website users you need them.


Trello online toolI am new to Trello but it has already significantly changed how I work. Trello lets you create separate boards for projects and then populate the boards with lists. Each list then gets cards. If you were doing a project you set up a board, Add topics to be done and then add list of steps under each topic. We use it for everything at Ultimate Youth Worker tracking workflow, developing podcasts, our intranet, you name it.

I wish I had this when I was studying, particularly group assignments

Slide Share

Slideshare online toolIf you create slide decks for young people why not put them on the internet so others can see them. It promotes your organisation and yourself and could end up helping people all around the world. Slideshare has become for slideshows what youtube is for videos. There is a myriad of information out there for us to use as well.

Every presentation you give should go on here

If you begin to use these online tools you will find that your productivity increases and your time stuffing around decreases. You will also begin to do marketing of your programs better and by default have better engagement with your young people. Some of this will feel a little backwards when you start. Learning a new skill takes time. Pick one and start using it today.

Would you add any others?


Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast

Podcast 008: How do I become a youth worker?

Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast
Help us keep the podcast going by donating a few dollars to the running costs.

How to become a youth worker

Our podcast this week is an audio version of our blog post “How do I become a youth worker“? Over the years we have had hundreds of people speak to us, email us, message us on Facebook and even get their parents to reach out to us to ask us the best way to become a youth worker. Honestly, I get asked this question so much that I have decided to put it into a podcast for prosperity sake… and so I had somewhere to point people when they ask. I say this so often it has become a bit of a spiel so stay with me and by the end you will have a clear guide on how to become a youth worker.

It is small easy steps that help you to become a youth worker. All you have to do is:

  1. Why do you want to become a youth worker?
  2. Understand your values
  3. Know what type of youth work you want to do
  4. Volunteer
  5. Read
  6. Go to training
  7. Network
  8. Get an education
  9. Make the most of placement opportunities
  10. and never ever stop learning.

Take this list and work through all the tips and we guarantee you will become an awesome youth worker. It is a process. You need to take little steps in the right direction.

If you really want to be a solid youth worker that has some career longevity then starting right and getting some support while you do this is so important. Get a person who can mentor you through this process. Someone who has been in the sector for at least five years. When you finally become a youth worker get some good supervision and work for agencies that will look out for you.

Help us keep the podcast going by donating a few dollars to the running costs.

Do you think we missed anything???

Let us know what we need to add by emailing us.

Career Development

Podcast Episode 007: Career Development

Career Development
To support the podcast, donate here!

One of the biggest concerns youth workers have about the job is the lack of opportunity to move up the pecking order. Most youth work agencies are rather small or they are a niche within a larger service such as health organisations, education or larger non government conglomerates. This leads youth workers to feel that their career options are severely limited.

There is also an erroneous thought that your organisation is meant to look out for you. That they spend time and effort developing you as a person and as a professional to take the next step in your career. The fact of the matter is that if you are not looking at developing your career it is likely that no one else is either.

Career Development

Start by asking yourself “what position, role or job do I want in 5 years”? 5 years can seem like a long time but if you need some new qualifications or some experience it could take you that long to get it. When you have worked out what type of role you might like its time to hit the job boards. Download 3-5 position descriptions for the roles you might like. You want to audit those positions for the Skills, Traits, Abilities, Experience and Qualifications they are asking candidates to have.

Download our template here Skills Audit

Once you have completed the Audit of position descriptions you need to start breaking the results down for yourself. The easiest place to begin is by asking yourself “Do I have the qualifications I need for the job I want“? This is a question of the depth and breadth of your qualifications. How skilled are you in your area of expertise for example: youth work. Do you hold a certificate that took you 6 months or a Masters which took you 5+ years to get? How broad is your expertise? Is it just in the one field or do you have qualifications in many areas.

Download our Qualifications_Depth and Breath template here

Check out Aaron’s Example here

What experience do you bring to the job you are after? Do you have relevant employment experience? Have you held similar roles? Have you volunteered? Remember when it comes to career development experience is important but more passion trumps experience almost every time.

Check out you local Job sites:

If you are not networking you are standing still. Networking is the second most important career development skill you must have (the first is self care). Are you a member of Peak Bodies or Industry Groups? Are you involved with your Local Youth Work Networks? If not you should be!!! You should also be a member of (come and find me when you are signed up).

To support the podcast, donate here!


If you want a long and successful career in youth work the only person who can help you do it is you. Spend time planning and doing the hard yards to get yourself there, but make sure those things are the right things. Work on the areas which will give you the best rewards. Most of all keep going in the sector. We need qualified and motivated people to lead the charge.

If you liked this cast don’t forget to subscribe to us on iTunes

What is Youth Work?

Podcast 006: What is Youth Work Part Two

What is Youth Work?
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What is Youth Work?

In our previous cast “What is Youth Work – 002” we looked at the broadest overview of youth work. We spoke to the most broad understanding of the youth sector and the term youth work that is surrounding the sector. We also looked at the broadest youth work definition that we use at Ultimate Youth Worker. If you are paid or volunteer in your capacity to provide support to young people as your primary concern you are doing youth work.

Recap of previous podcast “What is Youth Work – 002

  • The main reason for a youth work definition = Professional status
  • In Defence of Youth Work = Emancipatory and democratic youth work that is voluntary and starts with their concerns (link to open Letter)
  • National Youth Agency = Non-formal education in various forms (link to NYA)
  • RMIT = Youth work is about Justice and Human Rights (link to RMIT)
  • YACWA = Youth work is about providing formal and informal support to give young people a voice in their community (link to YACWA)
  • YACVIC = Working for and with young people, young people are your primary concern (link to YACVIC)
  • European commission on youth = Opportunity for young people to shape their own future (link to EU Youth).
  • Department of Children and Youth Affairs = Youth work is complimentary to formal education (link to DCYA)
  • Judith Bessant = Engaging with young people as our primary constituency in their social context
  • Infed = A history of youth works development (link to Infed)

Today we want to speak about the youth work definition that is most accepted in Australia.

In Australia we have been debating the core work of youth workers for decades. The earliest clear definition of youth work as a distinct industry came through the Jasper Declaration 1977.

The most current youth work definition used within Australia is from the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition 2013. After a consultation that brought together thoughts from all over Australia a whole day was devoted to defining youth work in Australia at the Australian Youth Affairs Conference 2013. The best part of 100 youth workers argued and debated for the day to craft a definition for our sector. After the conference there were a few more consultations and the definition was set.

A caveat to this – There are many in Australia who do not agree with the definition. Particularly, many from the North believed that the professionalisation debate was overshadowing good youth work. That the Southern and Eastern states had hijacked the youth work definition for their own. Funnily enough it is those states which have Degree programs.

Thought to end on

Youth work in Australia is still a contested site. The question of qualification is still at the forefront of the debate. From volunteer to PhD there are many who call themselves youth workers whether qualified or not. Another contested area is whether people are paid or not. There are thousands of people who volunteer to work with young people across Australia without who the youth sector would be considerably understaffed. Until we clarify as a sector what we mean by the term “Youth Work” we will be at the mercy of other definitions. We need to clarify professional paid youth work from volunteer work and other forms of youth support. This clarification does not need to reduce the amazing contribution of people to the sector, but it does need to focus our attentions.

To support the podcast, donate here!

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast

Ultimate Youth Worker

Podcast 005: Who is Ultimate Youth Worker?

Ultimate Youth Worker
To support the podcast, donate here!

Who is Ultimate Youth Worker?

Today’s podcast is a quick one to answer some of the questions people have about Ultimate Youth Worker as an organisation.

Youth work is a tough gig. Its probably why you have joined with over 1000 youth workers from all over the world who visit us every month. We truly care about you and your career.

We know that you want to be the best youth worker you can be. We know you want training. You want the right knowledge. You want support from management. We also know that you probably aren’t getting any of this either. Around 10% of youth workers get these things. The remaining 90% range from mediocre to down right criminal levels of support. It’s no wonder 21% of workers leave the youth sector every year.

Ultimate Youth Worker is an Australian company devoted to strengthening youth workers locally, nationally and internationally. We provide practical support, ongoing professional development and training opportunities for those working with young people between the ages of 12 and 25 and their agencies to build and maintain longevity in the field. Our vision is to see highly trained youth workers experiencing personal and professional development opportunities to grow a strengthened professional youth sector.

To support the podcast, donate here!

How do I become a youth worker: Start here.

Become a youth workerI want to become a youth worker

Over the years I have had hundreds of people speak to me, email me, message me on Facebook even get their parents to reach out with the basic intent of asking the best way to become a youth worker. Honestly I get asked this question so much that I have decided to put it into a post for prosperity sake… and so I had somewhere to point people when they ask. I say this so often it has become a bit of a spiel so stay with me and by the end you will have a clear guide on how to become a great youth worker.

Its a process to become a youth worker, whether your just dipping your toe in the water to see if you want to take it up as a career or you have applied for your first job these steps will help you to make the best go of a long career in youth work. If you are able to address all of these steps then you will be in a fantastic position to land a job and last the distance. One of the main reasons there is such a high turnover in the youth sector is that people do not go into it with their eyes wide open. They are passionate and excited, but passion and excitement will only take you so far. You need a solid foundation from which to begin or as the statement goes ‘your house will get washed away’.

[Tweet “Can you answer, “why do you want to become a youth worker?”.”]

Why do you want to become a youth worker?

The first and probably most important question you need to be able to answer is why you want to become a youth worker. This question is the first I ask when interviewing people for youth work positions. A version of it was the first I asked when getting volunteers. It is the most discerning question for a long future in youth work. If you do not have an answer as to why you want to be a youth worker STOP right now and work on it. Before you do anything else towards becoming a youth worker get this right in your head.

Here are a few answers to steer away from.

  • “I just really love kids”.
  • “I have had a lot of trouble in my own life”
  • “I have coached kids and I think I can do this easily”
  • “Those kids just need someone to guide them”
  • “I can keep them on the straight and narrow”
  • “I’m a parent of teens, so I understand young people”

If your answer to the youth work question is something along these lines you need to do a lot of work on yourself first. Whenever I hear one of these answers my skin literally crawls. for one reason or another broken people who look for closure to their own inadequacies seem to drift towards youth work. People who haven’t dealt with their own demons before wanting to work with young people are always dangerous. The other side to this is people who think anyone can do youth work. Its not that hard. I coach a team two hours a week. I have a teenager who I see for a few hours a day. Surely its not that hard to do youth work.

These people show a few inadequacies that lead myself and others to point them away. Firstly, they lack a depth of personal insight. Secondly, their view of working with young people is severely limited. Finally, their focus is on themselves not on the young people they seemingly want to serve. If you truly want to be a youth worker it is a path of walking along side young people. It is not a time for your own issues to haunt you. It is about providing the support young people need to reach their goals.

If your answer to the youth work question is that you want to see young people supported by people who care and are well trained. If you want to see young people reach their potential. See a world where young people are seen and dealt with justly. Then you might have what it takes to become a youth worker.

Understand your values

What makes you tick? What gets under your skin? What makes you get up out of bed on a dreary day when you feel awful? Having a solid understanding of your values is core to how you will function as a youth worker. There will be days as a youth worker that will stretch you to your limits. Days when your young people disappoint, when funding bodies take your program funds, when suicide visits your doorstep and when the worst of humanity is all around. What will you do then?

You need to understand from the outset that the mountaintop experiences are rare. Youth work is hard work. You need to know what will tip you over the edge. You also need to know what will keep you going in those tough times. Your vales are what anchor you to your mission. If that mission is to support young people you need to be fully aware of your values and how they will bring you down and build you up.

If you need a prompt try the Core Values Audit.

Core Values Audit

What type of youth work do you want to do?

Youth work is one of the most amazingly diverse professions. Anywhere and everywhere you can imagine a young person there is a subsequent role for a youth worker. From sports and recreation to street outreach to education there are roles galore. They may have differing names but the overall role has similar points of focus. Do you want to become a youth worker in the justice system or with homeless young people? What about young people with drug issues or mental health concerns? For local government or a not for profit? Perhaps you would even work in a religious organisation.

The types of roles available need to fit your values and your reason for entering the sector. If you want to work with homeless young people think of the roles where you will come across young homeless people e.g. housing, health, drug and alcohol, family counselling or perhaps even street outreach. It is worth taking your time and searching the job boards to see what is out there before you become a youth worker.

Volunteer first


Once you have the above sorted out its time to volunteer. Volunteering provides youth opportunity to understand the area you want to work in and see if it is really for you. Get to know the policies and procedures. Start building a network. Get some runs on the board. Begin to work with young people under supervision.

Many youth services have a set process for recruiting volunteers that is coordinated by a volunteer manager. You may be asked to send a letter and your resume or to fill in an application form, then be asked to attend an informal interview.  Some youth services run information sessions at set times during the year as first step for new volunteers. These organisations will also check your backgrounds by conducting a reference check, working with children checks and police checks.

Your volunteerism will always look good when you seek to get educated in youth work, when you seek placements and ultimately when you seek a career.

Read something

Every year more and more quality youth work texts are being published. Journal articles published by reputable academics and front line practitioners are available online. Blogging has brought the best and brightest to the masses. There is no excuse for not reading about youth work. It is at the core of all great youth workers that they read with passion. They read everything they can on the topic.

If you need a starting point read “Pedagogy of the oppressed by Paulo Freire” Advancing Youth Work edited by Dana Fusco” and “Youth work ethics by Howard Sercombe”. These three books will give you a good beginning to think about the current and future opportunities within the youth services sector. Read a journal article or two or more. Read the Journal “Youth and Policy” as a great starting point. Read a blog. Just read about youth work. It will all help to frame your future.

Get some training

On your journey to become a youth worker you need to look at some training. You need to get your first aid certificate. Youth mental health first aid is also a really important piece of training to have. Go to everything you possibly can that will provide you with some knowledge on how to work with young people. Get on every mailing list that will provide you with up to date training. Your peak bodies are a good start. Make sure it is reputable training and is well respected in the sector.

Here are a list of the first trainings we believe all youth workers need to have:

  • First aid
  • Youth Mental Health First Aid
  • Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST)
  • Introduction to drug and alcohol
  • DISC


One of the main differences between a good youth worker and a great youth worker is their ability to get things done in a timely manner for the young people they support. Whether it is helping them find work, get a medical check up, enter a rehab facility or any other thing we do being able to refer them on to other agencies and have them picked up by those agencies is key to great youth work. To do this you need an exceptional network. You need to know all the key youth workers in your local area as well as those in your area of practice.
Peak bodies are a great place to build this network. Through attending training and meetings you will start to build the wide network that will help you in years to come. If you stay in the sector long enough you will get to know many of they key players… Theres not that many. Also, if you are not on you need to be. It is the most used professional networking tool available. If you need somewhere to start add me on LinkedIn.

Get an education

Youth work education is ever growing and developing. From one year Certificates and Diplomas to three year Bachelor degrees and even higher still Masters and PhDs. As youth work becomes more professional so to is it more important to gain qualifications. At Ultimate Youth Worker we believe that all youth workers should aspire to be highly qualified. In Australia this means looking to three year Degree programs instead of one year Diplomas. Start with the short courses if you must but aspire to more.

A good education program teaches you not only how to do youth work but asks you to think about why you do it. They will make you reflect critically on how and why we serve young people. They will stretch you through reading and challenge you through assessment and in the end you will have knowledge and wisdom to use it. Check out who the lecturers are before you sign up to see if they have experience and if they have been published.

Make the most of your placements

When you finally start studying youth work you will have to embark on some sort of placement activity. It is often a harrowing experience and one which will stretch you significantly. Make the most out of it. If you can choose an area you are interested in. If not try to get something that aligns with where you see yourself working. In my experience well over 50% of students gain work from their placements. Treat it as the most extended job interview you will ever do. Ask heaps of questions, be a sponge. Take the initiative and try your best. Most of all gain as much knowledge of the practice area as you can.

Never stop learning

This should be self explanatory. If you think you know it all it is time to leave the sector. Read every week. Attend events and conferences. Study and attend training. Never stop learning. I have been a youth worker for 15 years. I know a fair bit, I impart that knowledge here and when I lecture. I still take every opportunity to meet with colleagues and learn something new. It is the only way to stay current and relevant in a sector which changes so frequently.

So that’s it. How easy is it to become a youth worker. All you have to do is:

  1. How do I become a youth worker?Work out why do you want to become a youth worker?
  2. Understand your values
  3. Know what type of youth work you want to do
  4. Volunteer
  5. Read
  6. Go to training
  7. Network
  8. Get an education
  9. Make the most of placement opportunities
  10. and never ever stop learning.

Take this list and work through all the tips and we guarantee you will become an awesome youth worker. It is a process. You need to take little steps in the right direction. Do you think we missed anything??? Let us know what we need to add by emailing us.

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BREXIT and youth work

Brexit text with British and Eu flags illustration

Brexit has come

So last week saw Britain vote to leave the European Union. The Brexit referendum saw an unprecedented youth voice get quashed by the roar of the elderly seeking a return to a Great Britain of old and Baby Boomers who are worried that their pensions are being sent oversees. Throughout the campaigns the fear mongering was phenomenal. From concerns about refugees and financial performance to the beliefs of politicians every opportunity has been taken to spread fear in the Empire.  The most concerning issue from this whole ordeal was how easily this happened.


32CB754C00000578-0-The_polling_data_showed_big_differences_between_how_different_ag-m-11_1459672827371Almost half of the population of the United Kingdom either didn’t vote or were unable to vote in the referendum. Many of those who were unable to vote were young people and refugees. The very people that the Brexit vote will affect the most. Of those who did vote, a significant proportion of of those who wanted to remain in the European Union were young people. This begs questions for youth workers, not just in the United Kingdom but throughout the world… When will we listen to young people? What does this mean for youth support services? What opportunities will avail themselves to young people and what will they lose? These questions among many others have been the focus of discussion by many of recent days.

A few thoughts from an Aussie whose family was banished to this great south land from the cold and dreary shores of England:

  • A country which has built itself on a nationalist framework will always struggle to let it go and play well with others. It was inevitable that Britain would leave the EU. Sadly until the voice of those who remember the height of British nationalism are silenced the generations will be stuck in the past.
  • The push of Neoliberalism will always seek to see splintered economies where some will prosper and most will eek out a meager existence. The mere existence of a Union is an afront to those seeking freedom in trade.
  • Young people have always been pawns to the will of the old. Young people are not listened to and do not have a strong enough platform from which to change this. As youth workers we spend our careers trying to amend this.
  • We live in a society which looks at the here and now. The future is of little consequence. Climate change, Economics, social breakdown and corruption all come from wanting a better now rather than a better future. We have more food than ever before and yet more poverty. We have more medical technology and yet die from preventable disease. Our now is more important too us.
  • Young people will always have to deal with the rubbish left by the old until there is a revolution. When power is held by one group over another there will never be freedom. Power must be distributed equally amongst all. Young people are under the power of those who are older, but that will only last until young people feel slighted enough to rise up. Better to share than be over ruled.

The future is now uncertain for Britain and more widely the European Union. Both sides of the debate believe they know what will happen and both will be certain in a few years. But one thing is certain, Young people believe their voice is not being heard. Brexit just proved it.




Why you should support external supervision

Over a career spanning 15 years I have seen some abysmal youth work management. For the most part it is a pure lack of training and support rather than some misguided sense of grandiosity which leads to this management. When times get tough a manager in this situation turns to their base behavioural types rather than working to understand their staff behavioural types. This crisis mentality leads to a crisis driven service which then creates a cycle of  pain and heartache for employees. In a crisis driven situation when your are struggling to keep your head above water you are probably doing more harm than good if you are providing internal supervision.

Unfortunately, due to funding constraints and government key performance indicators crisis has become the norm. Most internal supervisors arent trained to provide supervision and rarely have time to provide good supervision. (If you are an internal supervisor here are a few ideas that might help address this). If you are feeling the pinch as most managers are, then one area that can help you and your staff is getting good supervision. Supervision that looks out for more than just the tasks you have to complete to meet your KPI’s. Having an external supervisor supporting you and your staff is a great way to show neutrality and transparency.

External Supervision

External supervisors should have a solid record as a practitioner before they become supervisors and be known and respected in the youth services field. They should meet all eight criteria for external supervisors. Most of all they should understand your organisation. External supervisors cost a bit of money but the benefits they provide far outweigh the regular payments. They bring latest knowledge, morale and support to your staff and help your organisation retain their employees. External supervision is essential to staff retention and development.

Apply for external supervision today