‘It’s hard work, building trust and relationships with kids who don’t know you from a bar of soap. Youth workers don’t get the recognition that they should get, for that.’
Here’s his story:
‘I had heard of RPL before, but just didn’t really know what that looked like, for me.
I’m allergic to textbooks and classrooms! I’ve never set foot in a university. When I left school, I pursued an apprenticeship in cabinetmaking, but I’ve always dabbled in youth work.
I got into it through music. I’ve been involved in the hip-hop industry in Australia for a long time, performing and producing and running workshops, that sort of thing. Somebody asked me to run a workshop at an emergency accommodation house. I just engaged with the young people really well, so I went back a few times. I was only a casual bus driver at the time, and still in the music industry, but then I took on more financial responsibilities and I needed a full-time job. Working with young people was something that I really enjoyed doing, and I seemed to be able to relate to them well through that medium. So, I went for an interview, and they asked me to start the next week.
It all went from there. I started doing a qualification with that employer but then I moved on. I didn’t really want to study again. The thought of it really put me off. I continued in youth work for another eleven years. I’ve worked with a lot of Indigenous people in that time, and really embraced that culture and got amongst it. I’ve done my Indigenous Mental Health First Aid as well, and a fair bit of other in-house training. You learn a lot on the job but the training’s important, too, because it allows you to label what it is you’re doing.
Then, a little while ago, I was made redundant. I started looking at the jobs and they all seemed to ask for at least a Certificate IV level qualification. I thought, well, now I’ve got the time and the money, I need to look into this. I got in touch with a lot of different places, but didn’t hear back from many of them, the communication just wasn’t great.
I was having lunch with a friend at the Samford pub and she mentioned Churchill Education, as it was local. I gave them a call and they suggested I come in, so they could see what they could do for me. I wasn’t sure if I could get RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning.), but the staff at Churchill said to just bring in everything I could find from my work history. I’m a bit of a hoarder so I had heaps of that stuff- two plastic sleeve folders full! I spent a long time talking with Maria (Skills Advisor) about my experience and roles. She worked out that I should be able to get a CHC50413 Diploma of Youth Work.
It feels good to have, it feels earned. It feels like recognition of all the hard work I’ve done, over the past eleven years. It’s probably overdue. The industry average for youth workers is about four years, before you burn out. And here I am, after eleven years. I think I’m good at what I do and a lot of people have suggested I do other things but I say, ‘No, I just got my Diploma of Youth Work! I’m not going anywhere!’
Having it on my resume really helps. Ever since I’ve included it, more and more doors keep opening up. There has been a fair bit of controversy in the industry lately, so employers really want you to have your piece of paper. They’re tightening up, and making sure people are qualified. Unfortunately, youth workers can be labelled as glorified babysitters but there is so much more to it than that. Seeing all the units that make up my Diploma is good because you see it all articulated. There is crisis care and case management involved and goal-setting and you’re helping young people from very traumatised backgrounds, trying to change their negative mindsets and habits. That is hard work, building trust and relationships with kids who don’t know you from a bar of soap. Youth workers don’t get the recognition that they should get, for that.’
Congratulations, Cameron, and best of luck for your future career!