Children, teenagers and young adults sometimes fall prey to unfortunate circumstances that place them at risk for incarceration, teen pregnancy, domestic violence or homelessness. Youth service workers are professionals who facilitate contact with and develop programs for youth populations in underserved and poor communities. These professionals implement different initiatives that teach young people how to have healthy relationships, hold long-term employment and become productive and law-abiding citizens.
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Youth support workers are employed by government agencies, churches, religious organisations and non-profits to assist at risk children, adolescents and young adults with personal, professional and educational development. For example, youth support workers put together community activities and initiatives such as financial planning workshops and mentorship programs. Youth support workers also work with supervisors and staff to develop metrics that measure the success of each initiative and make changes based on feedback and improvement among youth cases. Other duties include maintaining contact with youth participants, enlisting support from teachers and school administrators, working with probation officers and case workers to encourage youth autonomy, and entering participants’ information into databases to track their progress in the program.
Most organisations look for candidates with a bachelor’s degree or equivalent work experience as a youth support or services worker. Workers often gain experience as a volunteer for a non-profit or government agency, or take college courses in non-profit management, computer technology and foreign language. Some employers prefer to hire candidates that are bilingual, particularly in communities with high immigrant populations.
Youth support workers should be emotionally stable, highly driven, compassionate and patient when working with program participants. Often, youth support workers work with young people who have dropped out of high school, joined gangs or suffered from abuse and other violence. Employers look for candidates who are trustworthy and relate to and work well with at risk children and adolescents. Strong leadership, writing, interpersonal and oral communication skills are important for communicating to different groups and professionals in the community and motivating team members. Youth support workers should also be highly analytical, organised and adept at resolving conflicts.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) “Career Guide to Industries, 2010-11 Edition,” jobs for workers in social advocacy organisations are expected to increase approximately 10 per cent between 2008 and 2018. The report also projects that social and community manager jobs, which include workers who organise community outreach programs, will increase by roughly 12 per cent across all organisations.
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