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Youth Worker - Job opportunities Alternative titles
Youth workers work with people under 25 years of age and their families, and provide services that help support a young person's development. This usually involves helping young people build healthy connections with family, peers, and community, and by providing guidance in education, training and employment.
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Salaries vary, but most youth workers earn between $29,000 and $50,000 per year. Managers who run a youth work agency may earn more than this.
Many youth workers work part time, volunteer, or receive payment for expenses only.
- MoreBusiness.com website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website - information about minimum pay rate
Source: National Youth Workers Network Aotearoa
What you will do
Youth workers may do some or all of the following:
- establish and maintain working relationships with young people, and their families/whānau, peers, and communities, and schools, training providers and employers
- provide support, information and resources to young people
- provide a link between young people and social services, and arrange referrals to the appropriate services
- plan, deliver and evaluate programmes, activities and events for young people
- train and manage volunteers or other employees
- write reports, prepare applications for funding, and manage budgets.
Skills and knowledge
Youth workers need to have:
- the ability to work effectively and creatively with young people
- knowledge of techniques, practices, information and resources that are useful for working with young people
- knowledge of youth culture
- understanding of the communities they work in, including the needs of young people in those communities
- knowledge of physical and mental health issues relevant to youth
- knowledge of laws and government policies that affect young people.
For youth workers who specialise in working with Māori communities, knowledge of Māori language and culture is essential.
- may work full or part time, or on a voluntary basis. They may also need to work long or irregular hours and be on call
- work in youth centres, community facilities and offices, schools, homes, churches, marae and government agencies. They may work outdoors when running camping or sports activities
- may travel locally to meet at places convenient to the people they work with. They may also travel nationally to attend workshops.
What's the job really like?
Watch the video above to find out about being a youth worker - 5.30 mins. (Video courtesy of Learning State)
Clinton: Your questions are about to be answered Mavis. You’ll be spending this evening with Sonya Struginski a youth worker with Te Ora Hou, a Christian based organisation working with Maori youth.
Sonya: The quality that we look for in youth workers is one needs to be their heart for young people, it’s not really about yourself, it’s about the young people that you’re working with.
Clinton: These young people have been referred by whanau, Child Youth and Family or the Police.
Mavis: I’m feeling nervous, and excited too! So yeah, it’s a new experience for me and I can’t wait.
Sonya: Mavis’s role tonight will be primarily to support the new girls that are coming along so it’s not all swimming for her unfortunately, but she’ll have a good time, I’m sure of it.
Clinton: Sonya , Mavis and the girls have arrived at the beach and meet up with the rest of the group. Time for action.
Sonya: It’s about the people coming together and feeling safe in a safe space, and that’s our role – to provide somewhere they feel comfortable, they feel nurtured, they feel that they belong, they feel that they’re part of something.
Sonya: Tonight we have a very special guest, I’d like to welcome Mavis Paetai!
Sonya: Listen up closely, because she’s got the instructions!
Mavis: Ok, we’re going to play this game, can everyone hop into pairs?
Sonya: Observing Mavis, I think she’s amazing.
Mavis: There’s three moves, and the names of the moves are “princess”, “horse” and “knight”. What are they?!
Crowd: “Princess”, “horse” and “knight”!
Sonya: She has got a good relationship with young people already and is ready to help people, so I can really see her going forward in youth work.
Clinton: There’s plenty of fun and games, and opportunities to learn new skills. These outings provide the troubled youths with a safe environment to relax from life’s stresses and a chance to confide in and get the support they need from their youth workers.
Sonya: A lot of times they just want to have someone listen to them, and if they want your opinion or advice, they’ll definitely ask for it, and if they don’t want it they’ll tell you!
Sonya: Yum! Dinner! Hey! You’re on the wrong side, mate!
Sonya: Oh you can have a dinner break, watch what you’re doing!
Clinton: This is no nine to five job. Organising and participating in camps, holiday programs, and weekly outings can require working irregular hours.
Mavis & Crowd: Singing.
Mavis & Sonya: Hi! How are you?
Client: Good! How are you?
Sonya: Good to see you!
Clinton: Once a month Sonya visits the home of the youths she’s been detailed to. Today she’s catching up with Tayla and her mother Bianca who will shortly be moving to Australia.
Sonya: We’ve just come to catch up with you about Tautoko, so I can show you some photos.
Bianca & Tayla: Oh yeah!
Sonya: It’s quite important for us to go to their house, where they’re comfortable in their space, to be where they are, and sometimes you might just go and sit on the doorstep, and you do that for a whole year of visiting and that’s ok because that’s where they feel comfortable.
Sonya: So this is just some footage from the camp that we went to in Hastings.
Sonya: it’s one thing to pick the young person up and take them up for a programme, but it’s another thing for them to know you, to trust you. Because at the end of the day, you’ve got their child in your care.
Clinton: Taylas’ mother, Bianca, can see how Sonya’s in-put has helped her daughter.
Bianca: I think she’s really lucky to have Sonya with her, and her journeys that she’s doing and what she’s doing. Any little problems, now she goes “text Sonya” you know, and Sonya is there for her.
Clinton: With the family moving to Austraila, Sonya’s support will be missed.
Tayla: I don’t want to leave club.
Sonya: You don’t want to leave?
Tayla: It’s like my other family.
Sonya: Sometimes you build such good, close working relationships with young people and sometimes you see them go through hard times, and also when they move on into other areas, or they move away, it’s also pretty hard to say goodbye.
Sonya: See ya.
Clinton: Mavis’s time with Sonya has given her a good insight into the importance of the role of a youth worker.
Mavis: Just observing and taking on that responsibility makes you think, that’s what a youth worker does, not always having fun or always interacting with kids, you actually have to take a big responsibility, and watching and seeing how the kids react or how things affect them, and all those kinds of things.
Clinton: To become youth worker you will need a natural interest in helping others, any voluntary work with Youths and Teenagers will be helpful. Youth workers may move into social work, counseling or teaching with further training. There are two options to becoming a qualified youth worker. You can go to an education provider that runs NZQA approved qualifications in Youth Work. Or if you have a job with a youth work organisation, you can study towards your qualification through work-based learning.
There are no specific requirements to become a youth worker; however, most employers prefer you to have a relevant qualification such as the National Certificate in Youth Work (Level 3 or 4).
Those wanting to work at a senior level in youth work organisations are able to complete the National Diploma in Youth Work (Level 6), or the Bachelor of Youth Development at Weltech.
A tertiary entrance qualification may be required for entry into a youth work certificate or diploma course.
Youth workers need to be:
- good leaders and communicators
- good problem-solvers
- able to relate to people from a range of cultures
- honest, ethical and impartial
- able to keep information private
- energetic and enthusiastic, with a sense of humour
- able to work well under pressure
- able to remain calm in an emergency and react to the situation appropriately
- well organised, with good planning skills.
Useful experience for youth workers includes:
- voluntary work for youth work agencies
- teaching, counselling, social work, community work, church work or other work that involves helping people
- work within an iwi/Māori community or social service
- experience working with people from a variety of cultures
- coaching young people in a sport.
View information on courses in the course database
Find out more about training
years of training usually required
What are the chances of getting a job?
Demand for youth workers has increased because more organisations have recognised the importance of providing specific services to young people.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates that the number of youth workers increased by about 13% between 2010 and 2012.
Broadening of youth worker role creates more job opportunities
The role of youth worker has broadened to have a stronger focus on positive development programmes.
Government agencies, such as Child, Youth and Family's Youth Justice Residences provide good entry level positions, usually casual work, for youth workers. There are also some opportunities in Police youth departments. However, most youth work opportunities are in the not-for-profit sector.
Volunteering increases your chances of getting paid youth work
A good way to get a paid job as a youth worker is to first volunteer your services; this allows you to get hands-on experience.
For example, 24-7YW is a growing youth initiative that works as a partnership between local churches and schools to place volunteer youth workers in schools.
Youth workers can work for a range of organisations, including:
- government agencies
- not-for-profit organisations and charitable trusts
- local authorities such as city and district councils
- marae and spiritual/religious-based organisations
- schools, universities and polytechnics
- community facilities, youth clubs and drop-in centres
- corrective institutions
- national youth organisations.
- Harrington, J, director, National Youth Workers Network Aotearoa, Careers New Zealand interview, August 2013.
- Karr, P, policy manager, Ministry of Youth Development, Careers New Zealand interview, November 2013.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2013.
- Te Moananui, J, special projects manager, Te Kaiāwhina Ahumahi (The Social Services Industry Training Organisation), Careers New Zealand interview, January 2009.
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Progression and specialisations
Youth workers may move into social work, counselling or teaching with further training.
They may specialise in working with Māori or other ethnic communities.
How many people are doing this job?
Job vacancies by region
Updated 4 Jun 2015