Youth Worker Competencies: Core Competencies

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Youth Worker Competencies:
Core Competencies

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Youth Worker Competencies: Core Com petencies | © 2007 Youthline | Page 1 of 22


Introduction ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 3
Purpos e------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 3
Bac kground ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3

User Guide – Structure and Content ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 5

Workforce Competencies-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 6


Youth development is shaped b y the ‘big picture’ ------------------------------------------------------------------------- 6
Governance and operational ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 6
Stakehol ders, net works and referrals -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 6
National policies and strategies--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 6
International c onventions ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 7
Culture ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 7

2. Youth developm ent is about young people b eing conn ected --------------------------------------------------------------- 8

Human growth and development ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 8
Famil y s ystems --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 8
Yout h c ommunit y, diversit y and personal identit y ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 8

3. Youth developm ent is b ased on a consi stent strengths-based appro ach ------------------------------------------------ 9

Strengths-based approach -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 9
Risk ass essment -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 9
Crisis management ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 9
Serious emotional/ mental health distur banc es -------------------------------------------------------------------------- 10
Health s ector ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 10
‘At-risk’ young people and families --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 10
Alcohol and subst ance abus e--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 11
Violenc e --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 11
Sexual abuse---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 11
3.10 Sexual health and pregnanc y --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 12
3.11 Child and yout h protecti on------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 12

4. Youth developm ent happens through qual it y relationship s----------------------------------------------------------------13

Coordinated delivery of services ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 13
Case management --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 13
Communication ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 13
Professional practice ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 14
Professional growth and devel opment ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 14
Developi ng eff ecti ve ment oring ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 14
Safe and ethic al practic e -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 15
Culturally saf e prac tice----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 16
Self refl ection and development practices ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 16

5. Youth developm ent is triggered wh en young peopl e fully participate----------------------------------------------------17

Yout h devel opment and participation principles ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 17
Facilitation s kills------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 17
Teaching and learni ng ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 17
Leading recreation and advent ure programmes ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 17

6. Youth developm ent needs good information. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------18

6.1 Evidenc e-bas ed practice -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 18

APP ENDIX 1 – Further Reading and Supporting Documents------------------------------------------------------------------19

APP ENDIX 2 – Contributors and Contact------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------22

Youth Worker Competencies: Core Com petencies | © 2007 Youthline | Page 2 of 22


This docume nt has bee n deve loped to define the ‘core com petencies’ required for
youth work in New Ze aland. These are the industry-define d sk ills and knowledge
which unde rpin youth work for both paid w orkers and volunteers . Two additional
le ve ls of ‘interme diate ’ and ‘advanced’ w ork force com pete ncies als o exis t, and are
des cribe d in additional docume nts . The compe te ncies have been s tructured
around the principles of youth de ve lopme nt de fined in Youth Development
Stra tegy Aotearoa


The develop ment of youth w orker competencies w il provide a framew ork f or
organisations to standardise the skills and know ledge dee med necessary f or youth
workers practice. This framew ork w il aid in the assessment of current practices and the
development of youth w orker training progra mmes as w el as providing a broad g uide f or
prof essional develop ment. Youth w orker competencies w il also be valuable to
emp loyers f or recruitment and selection processes. This document has been developed
in consultation w ith a w ide range of prof essionals in the youth sector in order to meet the
requirements f or these various applications (See Appendix 2.)


Unt il recently, young people had not experienced consistent improvement in their health
status1 2. During the 1970s and 1980s the mortality rate rose in the 15-24 age group
while consistently f al ing f or others3. This trend f or young people has reversed since
1990, as youth health statistics have begun to improve. This w elcome improve ment has
been marked and consistent since.

This issue of youth health presents a chal enge t o both th e youth services sector and the
wider community. A lack of a f ormal def initio n of youth w ork has meant the w orkf orce
has lacked resources, training and clear career paths. It has also created a perception
that youth w orkers do not have an equal standing w ith their peers in the sector. These
factors have combined to create a w orkf orce that has at times been volatile and led to
unsatisfactory outcomes f or young people and the ir families.

Recently, how ever, surveyed youth workers reported improving recognition of their role,
leading to benef its in the sector such as improved staff retention4. The setting of sector-
wide standards is an appropriate and positive response to this increasing recognition
and w il be a key process in ensuring this trend continues.

1 Ministry of Health. (2002). New Zealand Youth Health Status. Wellington: Ministry of Health.
2 Statistics New Zealand. (1998). Young New Zealanders (Census 1996). Wellington: Statistics
New Zealand
3 Counties-Manakau District Health Board (2003). Youth Health Plan 2003-2008.
4 National Youth Workers Network. (2006). Real Work. Christchurch: National Youth Workers

Youth Worker Competencies: Core Com petencies | © 2007 Youthline | Page 3 of 22

Youth w orkers bring a passion and specif ic expertise to their w ork w ith young people.
The imple mentat ion of w orkforce competencies w il strengthen the ir ability to provide
eff ective outcomes f or young people and their families and comp le ment the w ork
undertaken by th e varied other prof essionals w orking w ithin the community. It w il also
provide a f oundation f or f urther strengthening the prof essional prof ile of youth w orkers.
This develop ment w il assist w ith improving staff retention, def ining appropriate
remunerat ion, improving conditions of emp loy ment and developing cle ar career
pathw ays f or prof essionals w ithin the ind ustry.

Youth Worker Competencies: Core Com petencies | © 2007 Youthline | Page 4 of 22

User Guide – Structure and Content

The youth w orker competencies in th is document are arranged int o six key areas of
youth developme nt, aligned w ith the structure of the Youth Development Strategy

Each key area carries a def inition, explain ing its relat ionship specif ical y to the fie ld of
youth w ork. Related sets of competencies f ol ow , with each competency containing the
associated performance measurements that w il be used to assess them.

Co mpe tency and perf ormance measure ments are structured w ithin three levels of ability.
These levels are:

Level one: core compete ncies.

Level tw o: intermed iate co mpetencies.

Level three: advanced compete ncies.

Thi s ma nual deal s excl usi vel y with core competencies. The other competency
level s are i ncl uded in a n a dditional document.

Perf ormance is measured through t he f ol ow ing strategies:

displaying levels of know ledge;

providing evidence of know ledge and skil application; an d

demonstrating application of practice f or example, producing a service plan or
coordinating a service.

Youth Worker Competencies: Core Com petencies | © 2007 Youthline | Page 5 of 22

Workforce Competencies

1. Youth development is shaped by the ‘big picture ’
This principle ref lects the fact that w ider social and econo mic contexts and dominant
cultural values set the ‘b ig p icture’ w ithin w hich young people develop. Th is standard
recognises the need f or youth w orkers to develop an understanding of the
organisational context that they w ork in and the w ider social and economic contexts
that surrounds their w ork.

Governance and operational
Understands and s hows

Identifies the organisation’s mission statement and core values.
commitment to the
agency’s philosophy,

Adheres to organisational policies and procedures.
purpose and practic e.

Completes relevant administrative tasks in timely manner.

Stakeholders, networks and referrals

Describes the diversity of young peoples’ needs and how
Develops and maintains
col aboration among youth-based service agencies can meet these.
effec tive relationships

Identifies ten key referral agencies within their respective region,
with c ommunit y
agencies and their
which effectively support the needs of youth.
representati ves.

Identifies the different hospital, residential and community-based
Demonstrat es general

Describes Legal Aid services, such as youth law.
knowledge of l egal

Describes the rights of young people when dealing with the police.
syst em as it pertains t o

Identifies key age milestones for the rights and responsibilities of
yout h.
young people.

Explains the role of :
Demonstrat es general
special education;
knowledge of
alternative education, for example, the Correspondence
educ ational s yst em.
School, and relevant local services; and
vocational education.

National policies and strategies
Understands youth

Able to describe youth participation processes in policy making and
participati on principles
submission processes with local and central government.
in submission and

Provides evidence of involvement in youth sector networks and
advoc ac y pr ocesses .
contributes to advocacy processes.
Advocates for ser vices
that meet t he needs of

Describes the key steps involved in lobbying local and central
young people and t heir
government regarding young peoples’ issues.

Youth Worker Competencies: Core Com petencies | © 2007 Youthline | Page 6 of 22

International conventions
Understands the

Defines the role of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in relation
importanc e of youth
to global youth health.
wor k at an international

Describes the principles of the United Nations Convention on the
Rights of the Child (UNCROC).


Describes the impact of culture on a young person’s world.

Supports young people to identify and embrace their personal
Understands the impact
culture and beliefs.
of cult ure on identit y

Demonstrates awareness of own culture and how this influences
personal and professional identity.

Youth Worker Competencies: Core Com petencies | © 2007 Youthline | Page 7 of 22

2. Youth deve lopme nt is about young people be ing conne cted
Healthy develop ment depends on young people having positive connections w ith
many social environme nts. Typical y, the more settings w here young people f eel
w elcomed valued and understood the better. This standard recognises the need f or
youth w orkers to understand and eff ective operate alongside the diverse social
environments that young people are w ithin including f a milies.

Human growth and de velopment

Explains the physical, social, and emotional changes during
Understands principles
adolescence and how these interact with family relationships, peer
of adolesc ent and youth
networks, community and socio-political climate.
devel opment.

Understands factors which assist with healthy adolescent

Family s ystems

Describes a strengths-based systems approach to understanding
family dynamics.
Understands the
importanc e ‘family’

Describes the diversity of family structures within New Zealand and
plays in yout h
a rationale as to how this structure enriches our communities.
devel opment.

Describes the impact of family functioning on youth development in
relation to health and well-being.

Youth community, diversity and personal identity

Demonstrates an understanding of the diversity of gender, religion,
Understands both the
ethnicity, disability, age, and social practices within the youth
commonalities and t he
differences wit hin
diverse yout h

Develops an understanding of the diversity of sexuality as
comprising sexual identity, orientation and behaviour.

Explains how alienation and isolation impact on youth development.

Youth Worker Competencies: Core Com petencies | © 2007 Youthline | Page 8 of 22

3. Youth developme nt is base d on a consiste nt stre ngths-based

There are risk f actors that can af ect the healthy development of young people and
there are also f actors that are protective. A strengths-based approach recognises
that both ‘risk’ an d ‘protective’ f actors are acquired throughout a young person’s
develop ment. Th is standard recognises the ne ed f or youth w orkers to be aw are of
the risk and il n ess that ef ects young people, be ab le to co me a longside t hem and
eff ectively coach and guide young peop le to get the support they need.

Strengths-based approach
Recognises and builds

Articulates a holistic model view of youth development.
on t he s trengths and

Able to describe the fundamentals of a strength based approach
abilities of indi vidual
when working with young people.
yout h, t heir families,
communities and

Provides an example of helping a young person to identify their
strengths and working with them to realise their aspirations.

Defines risk and protective factors and describes, using examples,
Identifies t he risk and
how protective factors can reduce risk.
protecti ve f actors in a
young-person world

Demonstrates ability to conduct an assessment identifying risk and
protective factors for a young people. (e.g. HEADS)
Recognises t he need

Demonstrates good practice when working in a health promotion
for a str ength based
role. e.g. avoids using “scared straight” processe s and not leading
approach in healt h
promotion acti vities
with suicide as a topic.

Risk assessment
Demonstrat es

Describes health-related issues for young people e.g. eating
knowledge of significant
disorders, sexually transmitted diseases, obesity, diabetes etc, and
healt h-related issues f or
young people.
identifies appropriate agencies for referral.

Defines child abuse (including emotional, physical and sexual) and
Demonstrat es
identifies appropriate interventions.
knowledge of c hild
abus e.

Names indicators of abuse.

Outlines abuse reporting procedures to Child, Youth and Family.
Recognises risk
assessment procedure

Follows appropriate procedures for risk assessment.

Crisis management

Identifies personal health, social, education, career and behavioural
Understands crisis
issues for a young person that may lead to crises.

Follows appropriate crisis management procedures.

Demonstrates the ability to practice crisis intervention skills.
Demonstrat es critical

Completes a First Aid certificate.
incident management

Demonstrates an understanding of role in post vention processe s.
Makes appropriate

Identifies youth-related service agencies within the respective
geographical region and appropriate for the situation.

Youth Worker Competencies: Core Com petencies | © 2007 Youthline | Page 9 of 22

Serious emotional / mental health disturbances

Demonstrates a basic understanding of mental health illnesse s e.g.
depression, anxiety disorders, psychosis, personality difficulties and
conduct disorder.
Demonstrat es basic

Describes the risk and protective factors involved in the
knowledge of
development of mental health difficulties.
psyc hiatric and

Explains the links between substance abuse, mental health and
behaviour al disorders.
conduct problems.

Explains the concept of ‘resilience’ in relation to a young person’s
emotional and mental well-being.

Identifies agencies in the local region that provide support for
mental health difficulties.
Understands the impact

Articulates how discrimination might impact negatively on a young
of discrimination on
person’s self esteem, relationships, educational and employment
young people.
opportunities and social development.

Health sector

Demonstrates a working knowledge of the code of Health and
Disability Services Consumers’ Rights.
Understands advocac y
within heat h ser vices.

Describes the steps a person would take to register a complaint
within the health sector.
Understands major

Demonstrates knowledge of major factors that impact on health of
issues in N ew Zeal and
New Zealanders.
that affect health and
cause inequality in

Describes health inequalities present in demographic groups in
healt h st atistics
New Zealand.

‘At-risk’ young people and families
Participat es in the

Supports and motivates young people to develop strengths that
assessment of ser vice
assist in the achievement of identified goals.
and support needs of
young person and t heir

Explains Child, Youth and Family’s role related to ‘care and
famil y.
protection’ and the Family Group Conference process.
Provi des young people

Identifies youth-related information and services within the region.
and their families wit h
appropriate inf ormation

Demonstrates the ability to communicate information to young
and ser vice options.
people and their family using a strengths-based model of approach.

Youth Worker Competencies: Core Com petencies | © 2007 Youthline | Page 10 of 22