Youth work - getting into it
jobs; employment; work; experience; social; youth; counselling; counseling; education; uni; course; training; community; enterprise; university; mentor; mentorship; goals; support; peer;
One question workers at The Second Story Youth Health Service in South Australia are often asked is, 'How do you get into this sort of work?' Young people are often interested in doing work that may help the community.
Some young people feel that because they have gone through hard times, they have experience and knowledge they could pass on. Others feel that they have the necessary skills for this type of work. So how do you get into this sort of work? Short answer - education and experience. Now for the long answer…
Throughout this topic there will be references to training and education needs. Don't get discouraged by this, as there is always a way to get the training you need.
of community work
There are many names for the work people can do to help others in the community. It can be very confusing. Here are some common terms:
Social work involves helping people with issues such as homelessness, unemployment, illness, poverty, disability, drug and alcohol use, relationship issues, mental health, sexual health, and all the other challenges that people may face. People working in this field can have a variety of jobs. Social work often involves helping people to overcome difficulties arising from discrimination or being disadvantaged in some way that is out of their control. To get into a social work career, you usually need a bachelor's degree in social work. However, you don't necessarily need a degree in social work in order to work in the community: experience, having different qualifications (like social science and nursing), youth work, and volunteering can all be pathways into this sort of work.
Youth work is working with young people. Youth workers might support individual young people, run programs with more than one young person, or do a variety of tasks at an organisation. You can get qualifications in youth work at Uni, TAFE, and private organisations.
Peer education is education given by people from the same peer group. In youth health, peer education involves young people co-running education sessions with workers. Everyone benefits from this. The peer educators learn new skills, get experience and may end up getting paid work; the people in the education sessions often say that it is better hearing information from other young people; and organisations benefit from fresh ideas and young people's enthusiasm.
Community health worker refers to someone working in the health field at the community level, and this can occur in a wide variety of situations. It can be similar to social work, but people with different qualifications and experience can have this title.
Counselling may be part of the above jobs, or may be the main task of someone working as a one-on-one counsellor. You can do specific training in counselling, or you might get into it from studying social work. People in others types of jobs like nurses and doctors can also have skills in counselling. To learn more check out our topic Counselling.
Programs and groups describe social activities involving a number of people. You might run a program or group as part of one of the above jobs, or you could be employed to just work on programs or groups. Check out some of the examples of programs and groups at The Second Story Youth Health Service.
Case management is the term used to describe work where you support someone by coordinating their care. Case managers work with people to get the health care and other community service they need, when they need them, and for the best value.
One way to get into this type of work is to join an organisation, as a volunteer or in a youth leader position. Different organisations call their youth leaders different things. Here are some opportunities in South Australia to check out:
- Youth participation at The Second Story Youth Health Service. The Second Story have a number of opportunities for young people to get involved in the service so that you can participate in various ways, like having a say and contributing to the planning, development, delivery and evaluation of The Second Story.
- Keep Safe Stay Cool (Noarlunga Health Service, SA) is a program promoting safe relationships via sessions for young people in school settings. Training is provided to young people, the only pre-requisites are being interested in safe relationships/domestic violence and being around 15 to 20 years of age. It is also SACE-accredited.
- SHine SA Youth Advisory Teams. SHine is the leading sexual health agency in South Australia. There are six to eight young people between the ages of 14 and 25 in each Youth Advisory Team. There are three Youth Advisory Teams attached to each of SHine SA's Primary Health Care Teams that cover metropolitan Adelaide.
- Youth Affairs Council of South Australia has different teams for young people to join.
A Social Work degree is a great education option for working in the community. It can take a number of years though, and may be hard to get into. If you don't have the necessary high school scores, you might like to get into a foundation course where you do some subjects that qualify you for the full degree later on.
Youth Work courses are another good option. You can do them through a variety of places, but you might need to pay upfront fees.
Other types of study can lead to community work, such as Social Science, Health Promotion, and specific qualifications such as a Diploma in Adolescent Health.
Some sites online have free online training options. You might not get qualifications but it’s a good place to pick up skills and get an introduction to this type of study.
You never know where volunteering will take you. Often employers will need to find a replacement for someone who is leaving or going on holidays. If you have experience and are known by the staff, you might just get an opportunity for paid work. It's a matter of being in the right place at the right time. So make sure you are out there in as many places as possible. Here are some ideas:
- Lifeline offers intensive training for telephone counsellors. You have to pay and be able to commit to two years of volunteering, but the training and experience you will gain is invaluable.
- Volunteering SA can link you with work in the area you are interested in. You can do a phone interview – call (08) 8221 7177 – or simply use their online search tool.
Develop your own program or social activity. There is plenty of money out there for young people with the motivation to apply for it. Employers will be very impressed with a young person who has managed their own social enterprise. It's a good idea to write down the steps you need to take to get qualifications and experience. Check out our topic Goals for some ideas.
Here are some places that advertise this type of work online.
Getting help from someone already in this type of work is a good idea too. Contact a local organisation and see if you can have a chat with someone. And good luck!
- The Second Story Youth Health Service (TSS)
For free immunisation, counselling and health programs:
- Central: 57 Hyde St, Adelaide
- South: 50a Beach Rd, Christies Beach
- North: 6 Gillingham Rd, Elizabeth
- Youth Healthline 1300 13 17 19
9am to 5pm Monday to Friday
- The Office for Youth - SA government youth organisation. You might like to check out their website and then give them a call to get some ideas about this type of work in your area.
- The Youth Affairs Council of South Australia - The non-government youth organisation in SA. Here you can also find out about this type of work in South Australia.
- Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission (Australian Government).
Human rights cover many very important issues. Human rights are about respect, justice and equality for everyone. This site has heaps of information on the history of human rights, human rights in Australia, and human rights issues around the world:
- Youth Mentoring Network
A mentor is someone with experience in a certain area, or areas, who provides advice, support and time to help others achieve their goals. Four of the major mentoring organisations in Australia have come together to form the Youth Mentoring Network. On their site you can learn more about mentoring and search for a mentor.
- The Foundation for Young Australians
Has some volunteering opportunities:
- Save-A-Mate (SAM)
A program of the Red Cross. SAM promotes health and wellbeing of young people through peer education and support on issues such as alcohol and other drug use, and mental health.
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).