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Launch Of Youth Worker Training Guide

Professionalism In Youth Work – Launch Of Youth Worker Training Guide

Laila Harre, Minister of Youth Affairs

Christchurch Polytechnic
Te Matauranga Maori
Coventry St

Good morning, and thank you to Te Kaiawina Ahumahi for inviting me to participate in your forum. I've actually been wanting to meet the members of the Christchurch Youth Workers Collective for quite a while, but something always gets in the way. So I feel very lucky that I've been able to arrive on someone else's coat tails.

In other speeches I've made around the country I've often held up the Christchurch Youth Workers Collective as a shining example of how much a community, and in particular, young people, can benefit when youth workers get together and share their experience, their resources and their knowledge.

Although I have met many of you individually, this is the first time that I have met you collectively, and I would like to pay a special tribute to you and the work that you are all doing for the young people of Christchurch.

I have been invited here today for two purposes - to launch the Ministry of Youth Affairs booklet on youth work: Youth Work, A Guide to Professional Training, and to participate in a discussion on Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa. To me these two things are inextricably linked. The Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa will be our vision for where we want our young people to be, but it won’t work without the commitment of the people working at the grass roots.

At the heart of the Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa is the concept of coordination, of us all working together in the best interests of young people. This won’t happen unless all of my Government colleagues understand the importance of an integrated approach to youth policy, unless government agencies work together and let go of the policies of patch protection that hinder youth development. And it won’t work without you, the youth workers. There has to be partnership at all levels.

That partnership is exemplified by what I am launching today, the Youth Work booklet from the Ministry of Youth Affairs – Youth Work: A Guide to Professional Training. The importance of the work that you do cannot be underestimated. And the importance of training for this work cannot be overlooked. But until now, the information youth workers need to be able to undertake this training hasn't been readily available.

So why is a qualified approach to youth work so important?

You are the infrastructure that the Youth Development strategy will rest upon, the navigators for young people through along the bridges and highways through difficult times. We all recognise that this infrastructure must be solidly built and reliable. That’s why you've formed the Christchurch Youth Workers Collective, to strengthen your work, and that’s why the Ministry of Youth Affairs has produced this booklet - to help improve your effectiveness. We are all driven by the same aim: the empowerment our young people to develop into healthy, happy adults.

Youth Work: A Guide to Professional Training is a vital resource for people currently working in the youth work sector who want to get some formal qualifications, and for those who are thinking of becoming youth workers. It provides information on the importance of upskilling and the need to develop safe working and best practice methods.

The guide is just one strand of three in the broader Youth Affairs Youth Work Training Strategy. The Strategy has been developed in consultation with key players in the youth work sector and consists of three strands. Strand one, of which the booklet is a part, focuses on promoting and disseminating information on training and training opportunities.

Strand two will look at providing stronger incentives for government funded youth workers to be qualified. The objectives of this will be to encourage government funding agencies that fund youth workers to tag a funding component for formal training purposes. And we will also encourage government agencies that fund or purchase youth work services to identify a minimum level of qualifications for youth workers employed or funded.

Strand three concentrates on adjusting existing training funds to help support formal training. By having training agreements in place youth workers and their employers can access the Industry Training Fund as a subsidy for formal training. This would enable training funds to be extended further than they are currently.

So this booklet is about the bricks and mortar. And I happily launch it as an important contribution to building the youth work infrastructure.

But as indicated before, the work that we are all doing in the youth sector must be driven by a shared vision. A vision of what we want for young people. Working out what our vision is, and how we are going to implement it, is what the Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa is all about. We're going to spend the next two hours storming up some ideas on that, and I'm here, with Harry Tam from the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sarah Martin from my office in Wellington, primarily to listen to your ideas.

Before we start that, I would like to give you some background about the Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa.

Shortly after I first came into the job as Minister of Youth Affairs, just on nine months ago, I found myself in the middle of my first government budget round. For the Ministry of Youth Affairs the budget process is not just about getting money for our own programmes (of which we have very few). It is also about giving advice on the programmes and initiatives that other Minsters are putting up for funding. We do this because we know that a broad range of policies from a broad range of departments impact, directly or indirectly, upon the well being of young people. This is particularly pertinent to the Justice, Corrections, Social Policy, Child Youth and Family, Health and Education portfolios.

I came away from this process quite disheartened. It seemed to me that often we didn't see the wood for the trees – we didn't always look for the best solutions for young people. Instead we have been constrained by compartments which have not been designed to suit people, but to suit administrators. With exceptions, there is still too much emphasis on "picking up the pieces" type programmes, and not enough on those that look at prevention as the best cure. There is still a tendency to compartmentalise young people rather than treating them as whole people upon whom a raft of government policies will impact.

For me, this experience highlighted the need for much better coordination of Government policy and for it to be informed by an understanding of positive youth development. The Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa will provide this coordination and that vision. It will be a statement of the government's goals for young people and will set out how the government plans to work towards these goals. It will take a developmental and preventative approach to the issues facing young people and it will set out a range of integrated responses.

We have to acknowledge that many young people will face enormous challenges in their lives, and we have to acknowledge that risk taking is part of a young person's nature. But we have to ensure, as much as is possible, that when faced with these challenges, young people will have enough resiliency to cope with them, to bounce back. That when they take risks they aren’t going to be ones that will destroy their lives and their happiness, or other people's.

We all know that at the moment too many young people aren’t coping with the challenges that are presented to them. Often the challenges are myriad, heaped upon each other in every part of the young person's life: home, school, work and peer group. Too often they are not given any help to cope with their problems, or the help is not appropriate to their needs. Too often they have not been given the building blocks to enable them to cope. And too often young people themselves are treated as the problems rather than the victims of broader systemic problems that are out of their control.

Positive youth development is about us as a society providing a supportive, participatory and informative environment for all young people to allow them to move successfully from the dependence and vulnerability of childhood to the autonomy and responsibility of adulthood. I want the Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa to be a vision that empowers young people; a vision that helps us put in place the resources, the systems, the structures and the environments that will enable them to grow into healthy, happy adults.

The Youth Development Strategy won't happen without you. I can guarantee you that it will only be developed in very close consultation with the non-government and community sector, and most importantly, with young people themselves. Today is the first step in that consultation process. I know it will be worthwhile for me. I hope you will feel the same.

Thank you.

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