Updated October 2022
What exactly qualifies as "life skills"? For many of us, these are abilities we start learning as children and build on as we enter adulthood and become increasingly independent.
We're talking about things like landing a job, managing your finances, keeping yourself healthy, and building good social relationships. Aside from a few bumps here and there, we tend to develop these skills naturally, over time.
But for at-risk populations—survivors of domestic abuse, people with intellectual disabilities, those suffering from addiction—life skills don't come quite so easily.
What if you struggled with everyday social interactions? Or had no idea how to go about searching for a job? What if you couldn't take care of your own health or create realistic plans for the future? Just imagine how difficult it would be to fend for yourself in today's society. You'd find it very hard to find work, secure a safe place to live, make friends, or feel any level of personal empowerment.
And that's what it's all about—empowerment. Community services workers teach life skills to help their clients build self-confidence, independence, and a better quality of life.
No matter where you choose to work after CSW college—addiction centre, homeless shelter, youth organization, halfway house—teaching life skills will be a big part of your job.
Take a look at some of the major life skills you'll help clients learn, and their importance in the transformation process.
Daily Living Skills
If your client has spent the last several years living on the streets, it's unlikely she'll have mastered the daily living skills needed to build a more stable, financially secure life. It's quite possible she is struggling with mental health issues and needs help learning how to take care of herself.
Or you might have a client who's just escaped a controlling, abusive relationship. She's never been allowed to make decisions for herself and has no idea how to become independent.
As a community services worker, you'll help her master fundamental living skills she'll need to transition into a more independent and healthy life, including:
- Managing her own finances (setting up a bank account, addressing debts, creating a budget, applying for financial assistance)
- Finding a safe, affordable place to live
- Setting achievable goals for the future
- Creating a plan to achieve both immediate and long-term life goals
Daily living skills can also include things like nutrition and meal planning, household management, and health maintenance. Your client might need ongoing counselling or the help of a psychologist or other health care professional.
Community services workers make sure their clients are connected to the right programs and services, and follow up regularly to check on their progress.
Vocational Counselling & Job Search Skills
Finding secure employment is a key step in transitioning out of high-risk situations into more stable and safe living environments. And this is an area where most vulnerable people struggle greatly.
Imagine you're dealing with an addiction, are homeless, or haven't worked in years, and have no idea how to break into the job market. You need practical step-by-step help to figure out your strengths and skills, connect with the right employers, and find a position you're right for.
That's exactly the kind of help community services workers provide. CSWs offer vocational counselling and job-search coaching, and they also do outreach to employers who hire at-risk people.
From identifying possible job options, to writing resumes and finding training programs—CSWs play a crucial role in helping clients achieve a massive goal: financial stability...and the self-confidence and security that come with it.
If you're working with a client who has lived a long time in isolation, suffered abuse, or has an intellectual disability that impacts how they socialize, you'll need to help them with interpersonal skills.
Interpersonal (or "people") skills are actually essential for success in every area of life. They include:
- Conflict resolution
If your clients can communicate well and collaborate with others, they'll have a far better chance of staying employed, building positive relationships, and avoiding self-sabotaging situations.
CSWs model effective interpersonal skills every single day at work. You'll set a good example for your clients and guide them through counselling and role playing.
As a CSW student, you'll spend quite a bit of time developing your own interpersonal skills during the training and internship process.
Self-confidence & Self-advocacy
One of your biggest goals as a community services worker is to help clients achieve a higher level of self-confidence and self-advocacy.
Being able to advocate for yourself means you can speak up for your own needs and direct your own future. It encompasses all the skills we talked about here, including how to ask for and get support when needed. In short, it means being in command of your own destiny. And is this not a basic human right?
Self-esteem and self-advocacy go hand in hand. CSWs help clients lay the groundwork for smart decision-making, goal-setting, and achievement—which ultimately, gives clients greater control over their own lives.
This is something every single one of us has to learn, but it's far more difficult for people who have suffered serious disadvantages.
The same is true for people with intellectual disabilities, who should be empowered to make their own decisions and yet are often marginalized on the fringes of society.
CSWs do a great job of helping vulnerable people find their own strength and purpose. The work they do reduces dependency on social welfare programs and makes our neighborhoods healthier, fairer places for all.
Learn more about Becoming a Community Services Worker
Do you feel a deep sense of social justice, empathy for disadvantaged people, and desire to make a positive difference in your own community?
It sounds like you'd be an excellent candidate for community services work. Your first step is to learn more about available diploma programs in your area.
We strongly recommend connecting with a qualified admissions advisor to understand application requirements for CSW programs, career options, financial aid, and more.
Click below to explore the Community Services Worker program at Herzing College Ottawa. This training takes just 12 months to complete and includes an intensive 8-week internship. Our graduates are hired by leading organizations all across Ottawa.