We know that qualified youth workers have unique contributions to offer the Victorian community, which is why we wrote to Minister for Trades and Skills Gayle Tierney MP last week, asking her to further commit to young people by ensuring that youth work is one of the 30 free TAFE courses offered in Victoria.  

We were excited to hear the budget’s announcement of free TAFE training in 30 priority courses and 18 Apprenticeship Pathway courses that will make a great difference to young school-leavers. Twenty of the free TAFE pathways have been announced and currently youth work is not one of them. We believe that Youth Work (Certificate IV and Diploma) must be included.

“At RMIT we have 120 students enrolled this year in Certificate IV in Youth Work. Our student numbers have grown progressively over the last few years and this year we were filled to capacity. We have also managed to retain 85% of our students for semester 1.

Our demand for students wanting to enrol into the Certificate 4 in Youth Work is greater than our room capacity. We had to close our program due to the large number of students entering the course. We have 4 groups of Certificate 4 classes; this has never been achieved before.

We have 50 students enrolled in Diploma of Youth Work. Our student numbers have increased over the last few years, and we have retained 95% of our student cohort for semester 1.”


Why we need free youth work courses at TAFE

Currently Youth Work (Certificate IV) is offered by 7 providers (Box Hill, Chisholm, Homeslglen, Gordon, RMIT, Swinburne, VU) with approximately 300-400 enrolments. Meanwhile the Diploma of Youth Work is currently offered by 5 providers (Box Hill, Chilsholm, Homeslglen, RMIT, VU) with 150-250 enrolments. Some of these providers are unable to meet the demand for places. We recognise that several related course areas are already listed on the free TAFE pathways list, notably Community Services (Certificate III – Diploma). However, we maintain that qualified youth workers have unique contributions to offer the Victorian community.

The Victorian TAFE Association has noted that a highly effective strategy for working successfully with students who are disadvantaged is to have a youth worker in the classroom to work alongside the teacher/trainer. However, youth workers are currently spread too thinly across TAFEs, and TAFE teachers want funded, full time youth workers back in classes again.

Youth work professionals build trust and understanding between young people, their families and communities. Working in many different settings – including youth justice, health services, schools and local government – youth workers help young people to:

  • Make age-appropriate choices about things like education, work and relationships,
  • Overcome challenges, like mental health issues or unemployment,
  • Maximise opportunities, like becoming more independent, playing a leadership role in community, building skills, volunteering, and connecting with other people.

A youth work professional works holistically with young people, taking into account everything that’s happening in their lives, families and communities. Youth workers can build relationships with young people who don’t trust formal services.

Graduates of TAFE Youth Work qualifications have built skills in engaging positively with young people, especially young people at risk of disadvantage, and supporting their social and emotional needs, health and wellbeing.

TAFE qualifications in Youth Work provide a strong pathway into the Bachelor degrees which are required by work such as child protection. TAFE pathways into university help facilitate a more diverse community services workforce, including people with lived experience of issues like disadvantage, homelessness and the justice system.

The value of youth work

Now more than ever, youth workers have a lot to offer the Victorian community. In light of the recent state budget, the Victorian Government will invest $145 million in strengthening the youth justice system as well as $12.6 million to target youth offending, including through initiatives to keep young people engaged in education, training and work. YACVic believe these investments require appropriately qualified staff available.

An analysis of the value of youth work by the National Youth Council of Ireland found the economic benefits exceeded the costs by more than double; over a 10 year period, every €1 invested in youth work would show a €2.2 return. This was due to the estimated reduction in problems like crime and drug use, and a rise in young people’s engagement in education, volunteering and work.

Similarly, a study of youth services in the United Kingdom found that providing dedicated, responsive, one-on-one support and better coordinated youth services would show a return of £5.65 for every £1 invested over a five year period. This reflected reductions in young people’s drug use, imprisonment and use of crisis services, and increases in employment, independence and capable parenting.

Many youth workers tell us that is difficult to be recognised as experts in their field and many people don’t know what youth workers do. We want everyone to understand the value of youth work and why it should be offered as one of the free TAFE courses in Victoria.

Show your support

If you believe that youth work should be on the list of free TAFE courses offered in Victoria then we ask that you write to Minister Tierney or tweet her with the following message:

Youth workers save lives. @GayleTierney please make youth work a free TAFE course #youthworkmatters #vicyouth #TAFE #springst
#youthworkmatters for our young people and the whole community @GayleTierney. Please make youth work one of the 30 free TAFE courses announced in the Victorian budget #vicyouth #springst #TAFE

You can also sign up to the Youth Work Matters campaign to receive news from us as we advocate for more trained, supported youth workers in Victoria.