Updated December 2023
Do you feel driven to help at-risk children and teens get the support they need to improve their lives? If you become a youth worker, you can make a career out of doing exactly that.
Youth workers specialize in helping kids navigate tough situations. They connect vulnerable young people with community programs and resources designed to lift them out of dangerous conditions and get on a better path.
Ultimately, this job is about ensuring the safety and well-being of kids who find themselves in challenging circumstances.
Looking to become a youth worker? Not sure how to begin?
Have a look at five steps that can help you launch a career in this branch of social services.
1. UNDERSTAND THE ROLE OF A YOUTH WORKER
If you’re hoping to become a youth worker, you first need to make sure you understand the role and its responsibilities.
Youth workers assist children and teens dealing with bullying, addiction, mental illness, homelessness, food insecurity, physical abuse, and many other issues. They assess each client’s needs, coordinate the necessary services, and monitor ongoing progress.
If you take on this role, some of your tasks would include:
- Interviewing youth to identify areas of need
- Implementing customized intervention and treatment plans
- Providing individual counselling or group therapy
- De-escalating crisis situations using behaviour management strategies
- Educating young people about at-risk behaviours
- Helping youth and their families access community resources
- Coordinating with healthcare and legal professionals as necessary
2. RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH WORKERS
It’s also important to have a look at the local job market. Before you commit to become a youth worker, you should get an idea of how easy it will be to find career opportunities.
According to the Government of Canada Job Bank, youth and other community service workers will be in steady to good demand in most of the country. Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and the Yukon are expected to have the strongest outlooks through 2025.
Youth workers have many potential employers. Check out shelters, school divisions, group homes, youth services organizations, and addiction treatment centres.
3. TAKE NOTE OF THE SKILLS YOUTH WORKERS NEED TO GET HIRED
What skills are key for aspiring youth workers? We looked at job postings to see exactly what employers want.
We found that to become a youth worker, you must be able to:
- Listen well and communicate effectively
- Stay calm in volatile situations
- Act with compassion
- Build and nurture positive relationships with young people from all walks of life
- Adapt to changing conditions
- Intervene effectively in a crisis
It also helps to be familiar with different cultural traditions and practices.
Chika Modozie completed Herzing’s CSW training and now works in a community relations unit with the Winnipeg Police Service. She says it takes a special combination of skills to be effective in this field.
“First and foremost, you should be open-minded, and genuinely want to help people in need. Whatever comes your way, don’t judge," she told us.
"Empathy is another crucial skill. If you don’t have the ability to connect with people and relate to how they’re feeling, there’s no point in pursuing this career.
"Remember, it’s not always a pretty job, but it’s incredibly rewarding. You need to be willing to get your hands dirty and get out there on the front line. Also, you must accept that you won’t be able to help everyone. You can’t take it personally, or you’ll burn out.”
4. COMPLETE A RELEVANT TRAINING PROGRAM
You don’t need a university degree to become a youth worker.
A community support worker (CSW) diploma is enough to get you started. Most programs take less than a year to complete.
Quality CSW training teaches you about:
- The effects of addiction
- Mental health disorders and therapies
- Interviewing and counselling techniques
- Psychology and human development
- Dealing professionally with clients
- Teamwork and group problem solving
- Available social services and programs
5. GET HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE THROUGH AN INTERNSHIP
Make sure you choose a CSW training program that includes an internship at a local community organization. An internship is a great way to apply what you’ve learned, build your confidence, and get real-world experience helping youth.
Herzing CSW students can even ask to do their internships at a youth-focused organization, and the college will try to arrange it.
Many students get hired right out of their internships. It can be an excellent way to kickstart your career.
WANT TO BECOME A YOUTH WORKER?
It’s important to choose a quality training program.
Check out the CSW training from Herzing College. It takes no more than 12 months to complete and includes an internship.
Students complete case studies, group projects, and mock counselling sessions as well as volunteer work in the community.
Click below to learn more about the CSW program and chat live with an admissions advisor. We’re here to help!