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Youth Worker or Disability Worker

Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.

Job Prospects Openings 5 years to November 2018: 5,000 to 10,000
Salary Range Median weekly earnings: $901 to $1000 to Source: Australian Government Department of Employment 2014
Brief 'It is a great opportunity to have an impact on a young person's life and to assist them to better their own lives so that they can reach their potential', says an Adelaide youth worker. Young people have specific needs and issues and it is the role of a youth worker to help them with these issues and to act on their behalf.

There are approximately 3,900 welfare support workers in South Australia. Employment is largely full-time with the majority working in the Health and Community Services industry. Most persons in this occupation are females. The median age for those employed in this occupation is 43 years.

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TAFE SA courses that may be relevant for: Youth Worker or Disability Worker

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Youth and disability work is about helping young people make positive changes in their lives and developing their skills to maintain positive decisions in the future. This can mean providing specific services, helping young people with issues such as accommodation, education, training and employment or counselling. However, youth work is far more than just welfare services. 'A common misconception about youth and disability work is that it is solely working with youth on welfare issues such as homelessness or drug and alcohol programs. While these roles are an important part of youth work, it is often more about community development', says one youth worker. Consequently, youth workers are employed in a diverse range of roles from outreach work on city streets, to running community education and recreation programs for local governments, or providing a voice for young people on a range of issues such as health services or employment.

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Helping and Community Services

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Influencing and Personal Contact

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Education Requirements

Entry into this occupation is generally through a diploma or higher qualification. Of those currently employed in this industry 30% have either Certificate III or Certificate IV; 31% have Bachelor Degrees; 12% have either an Advanced Diploma or Diploma. Around 26% have no post-school qualification, however it is recommended that you get the available qualifications to give yourself the best possible chance of employment.

TAFE SA offers courses relevant to this occupation including the Certificate IV in Disability, Diploma of Youth Work or Diploma of Family Intake and Support. Pathways includes the Certificate III in Disability, Certificate III & IV in Community Services Work, Certificate IV in Youth Justice or Certificate IV in Youth Work.

Studying at TAFE SA is one of the easiest and most successful pathways towards a University Degree. Dual offer courses are available to TAFE SA and Flinders University in the Certificate IV in Disability/Bachelor or Disability and Development Education.

Career Path

Youth and disability workers find employment in a wide variety of fields throughout South Australia, including education, health, accommodation services, outreach, juvenile justice, and drug and alcohol. They are employed by government agencies, local governments, not-for-profit bodies, churches, schools and other organisations that deal with young people.


Health and Community Services,  Personal And Other Services

Nature of the Job

To be effective in their work, youth and disability workers need a wide range of skills. They have to be able to relate well to young people, taking the time to get to know them. The manager of an Adelaide youth services for a community organisation explains that 'the key attribute we look for is someone who can relate to young people, someone who can empathise with them and listen to them'. Youth workers need to balance a strong approach when dealing with advocacy issues, with a caring approach in their work and have a healthy balance between work, rest and play to be effective. According to Steve, 'taking on people's problems is important because you need to really connect in order to help them. But it is important not to hang on to those problems because they can drain you and affect your ability to do the best for the person. Knowing your own limitations in the role, such as knowing when to pass things on to others, such as school psychologists or doctors who are better equipped to handle the specific problems, is crucial to the job'.

The process of assisting young or disabled people to make changes is a delicate job and while you may never get to see the progress achieved, it's the true reward for your efforts. 'The biggest reward is the satisfaction of helping someone, helping them to realise their potential and turn their life around. But it's not about doing things for young or disabled people, it's about doing things with them, helping them make the changes for themselves, which can be quite a slow process and can mean you might not see the changes yourself.'

Typical Physical Working Environment

Youth and disability workers must have initiative and leadership qualities. They need to have good interpersonal and communication skills and be able to work independently. It is essential that they have a non-judgemental attitude and have excellent planning and organising skills.

Youth and disability workers are often out and about but may also need to spend a significant amount of time in the office writing reports and applications for funding, organising activities or counselling young people. Youth work often involves shift work, weekends or unusual hours.

Typical Occupational Example

Youth work and other social work occupations are growing areas of employment in Australia. Students can look forward to good employment prospects after they graduate. Some find work while they are still studying, often with the agencies with whom they had their work experience placement.

For further information, contact:

Youth Affairs Council of South Australia
GPO Box 2117 Adelaide, SA 5001
Ph: (08) 8226 3080
Fax: (08) 8226 3081

Health Services Union of Australia (SA)
46 Greenhill Rd, Wayville SA 5034
Ph: (08) 8279 2255
Fax: (08) 8279 2223

Earning Potential

Annual salaries for a full-time youth and disability worker start at around $34,000, although a number of youth workers start in part-time, casual or voluntary roles. Salaries can rise to $60,000 for experienced youth and disability workers, particularly those in managerial roles or those who are program coordinators.

Further Information

For further information about all TAFE SA Courses, phone 1800 882 661 or enquire online