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.
||Openings 5 years to 2016-17: 5 000 < 10 000
||Median weekly earnings: $801 to 950 (Source: DEEWR Australian Jobs 2012: www.deewr.gov.au/australian-jobs-publication)
||'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
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.
Not quite the career you are looking for? Please try the related course profiles below:
Helping and Community Services
Customer Service Officer, Massage Therapist, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker, Tourist Information Officer, Patient Care Assistant, Landcare Officer, Library Assistant, Fitness Instructor, Medical Administrative Officer, Financial Counsellor, Personal Assistant, Financial Planner / Financial Investment Advisers, Laundry Worker, Aged or Disabilities Carer, English as a Second Language Teacher, Youth Worker or Disability Worker, Police Officer, Nutrition Assistant (Dietitian), Cleaner, Occupational Health, Safety & Environment Professional, Kitchenhand, Counsellor and Community Worker, Interpreter, Child Care Worker
Influencing and Personal Contact
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker, Tourist Information Officer, Car Sales Representative, Event Coordinator, Nurse (Enrolled), University - VET Lecturers, Florist, Retail Sales Supervisors and Assistants, Management Consultant, Patient Care Assistant, Landcare Officer, Music Professionals, Personal Trainer, Beauty Therapist, Designers for Theatre, Performance and Events, Fitness Instructor, Project and Program Administrator, Marketing and Advertising Specialists, Copywriter, Bank Officer, Human Resources Manager, Financial Counsellor, Personal Assistant, Sports Coach, Butcher, Cellar Door Salesperson, Veterinary Nurse, Market Research Analyst, Fashion Designer, Accountant, English as a Second Language Teacher, Real Estate Sales Representatives & Property Managers, Actor, Hotel Manager, Youth Worker or Disability Worker, Author/ Book Editor, Police Officer, Travel Consultant (Domestic and International), Restaurant and Catering Manager, School Services Officer, ICT Network Professionals, Aromatherapist, Ecotourism Guide, Occupational Health, Safety & Environment Professional, Hairdresser, Film, Stage, TV and Radio Director, Counsellor and Community Worker, Child Care Worker, Conveyancer
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 the following courses to help you find employment in this occupation:
Certificate IV or Diploma in Youth Work
Certificate IV or Diploma in Youth Justice
These are a few of several related courses available. For further information about Award courses please check the TAFE SA website. Still unsure? Then contact the TAFE SA Information line on 1800 882 661 to enquire about availability of related short courses.
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
I was on the disability pension before studying at TAFE … I was diagnosed with a mental illness when I was 17 and pretty much put straight on the pension and told that that was the end of my career opportunities…that my life was going to be watching Days of Our Lives. For a long time I didn’t have activity and my life actually was watching Days of Our Lives! Then I got some encouragement from some people in my life and it was suggested that I might want to look at some TAFE SA opportunities.
I kept that in the back of my mind for a while and then saw an advertisement for Disability Studies - Certificate III in the Messenger. It appealed to me for a couple of reasons…my partner has a disability and uses a wheel chair, so I had some idea of the impact of disability on people, and having a disability myself made it a personal interest. So I went along to the information session…was later thrilled to have gotten accepted and then a bit nervous as I began to think I wouldn’t do very well.
I had dropped out of school at Year 10 and then later had gone to Thebarton Senior College to attempt Year 11 and 12 , but found it wasn’t for me. My early experience in hospitality training was by no means successful…so I was still a bit apprehensive about returning to study. But I found my functioning ability had improved considerably and in hindsight I think that if I’d been given the encouragement earlier and the CES had said 'Yes, there are possibilities… there is hope' then perhaps I would have gone into some courses earlier or would have done better sooner. I was certainly ill for longer because I was not active.
I loved the Disability course. The lecturer was extremely supportive as were pretty well all of the staff in the program. It gave me really good practical knowledge of what I needed to do to work in the field, which was brilliant. It looked at a whole lot of ideology about how disability is seen in society and really tweaked my interest to go and study further. The field placement was fantastic too.
I did my Cert III placement at Autism SA in a program called 'KANDU'… working with adults with a high level of intellectual disability and autism. That was a life changing event for me. I made some really wonderful connections with colleagues, family members of clients, as well as connections with the clients… it was fantastic.
They offered me work at the end of that placement and I’m still there, which is about four years ago now. I’m a support worker … a casual at this stage, because I’ve been continuing with studying along with it. Last year I finished Certificate IV and that gave me eligibility to apply for university which I did, and got 30 units of credit towards the Bachelor of Applied Science in Disability Studies at Flinders University. I’ve just completed the first year and it has gone very well.
‘KANDU’ is a day options program for adults. We go out into the community and participate in activities - horse riding, dining out in restaurants, hiking, going to events like the show and that sort of thing.
There is a large amount of personal care required; assisting people with toileting and changing and assisting people to eat. But a great deal of what I do is educational. We have individual client program meetings every year and, with the client’s family, we look at the goals that are suitable for their development and we work on those throughout the year. So some of what I do is working with these educational goals and teaching skills, which has been fabulous… I’ve just loved it.
I’ve just designed a program and its very basic but it’s to teach a client to take one piece of food when it is offered instead the whole handful she usually takes …that’s not socially appropriate and not very safe because she can choke. So I’ve designed this adaptive tool and this new bowl to try and teach her to take one item of food. Now that seems like a very small thing but when you are talking about someone who is 31 years old and who has had the behaviour of taking too many items for a long time it's not an easy task. It's a challenge, but very rewarding when they develop a new skill… its magic. That's the core part of my job I would say, the personal care is a side issue… teaching independent living skills and social skills, that’s the core of it.
The size of the program varies from day to day and we can have up to 12 clients. We do it as group. We have a high client staff ratio because the behaviour of the clients we work with can be quite challenging and they have quite high support needs. It is intensive support and I often work with just one or two clients.
Another important thing we work on is language development and we will work on various ways of enhancing the client’s communication. Some don’t have any language and then we work with a communication system called PECS (Picture Exchange Communications Systems). Some clients do have verbal communication but it is quite often 'echolalic' and they tend to 'parrot' phrases other people say without actually having a meaning for the language that they’re using. So we’ll work with them on developing concepts for the language that they use and enhancing their overall communications.
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
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.
For further information about all TAFE SA Courses, phone 1800 882 661 or enquire online