Youth Development Programs

Broadly, youth development occurs as young people grow and develop individually, in schools, in families and in community groups.

Many different services provide youth development opportunities that are open to all young people. They focus on learning through experience, involve young people in decision making roles, and offer young people the opportunity to build social networks and make a contribution to their communities. Youth development activities also offer opportunities for practical skill development. The provision of these opportunities is essential for young people to reach their potential. Particularly for those who may experience challenges in their lives.

There are many different types of youth development programs and service providers including not for profit community organisations, volunteer organisations and government support programs. Many youth services in the ACT provide programs that have a youth development focus, and as a worker you may already be facilitating youth development opportunities. This section focuses on Youth Development Programs in the Volunteer Sector.

Ways of Working

Young People and Volunteering 

Many youth development programs rely on volunteers. Young people often volunteer for their own development to gain experience and new skills, meet new people, make a difference, experience new challenges and have fun. Below is information for services to consider when working with young volunteers.

Young volunteers can provide:

  • Energy and enthusiasm.
  • Creative ideas and a new point of view.
  • Access to information on issues affecting other young people, and an understanding of what is important to young people.
  • New skills.

Ways to recruit young volunteers:

  • Go to www.govolunteer.com.au, a free volunteer matching website that is visited by 14,000 young people each month.
  • www.volunteeract.com.au provides an ACT volunteer matching service, and tips for organisations seeking volunteers in the ACT.

Ways to recognise and retain young volunteers:

  • Make sure young people are treated with respect and as equals.
  • Ensure there is open communication between the volunteers and other staff.
  • Have flexible working conditions that suit your volunteers’ needs.
  • Listen and act on the suggestions of your young volunteers.
  • Make sure you provide feedback and encouragement.
  • Consider if it is possible for your organisation to provide reimbursements for travel expenses, or paid work.
  • Treat your volunteers with respect. Don’t just give them jobs you don’t want, or don’t have time to do.
  • Regularly provide training opportunities for young volunteers.
  • Don’t over utilise your volunteers. Remember young people can often be trying to balance school, work, social and volunteering commitments all at once. A way to address this may be by providing shorter, project based, volunteering options.
  • Remember International Volunteers Day is on December 5 and try to organise something special for your young volunteers to say ‘thank you’.

Other issues to consider:

  • Make sure your volunteers are aware of all of your organisational procedures, and who to speak to if they have any suggestions or complaints.
  • Having volunteers can still be very resource intensive. Make sure you budget for training, travel, catering and other reimbursements. You also need to ensure you have enough time to dedicate to supporting your new volunteers. 
  • Ensure you adequately orientate young volunteers to your service and make them feel like part of the team.
  • Always make sure you accommodate the personal needs of the young volunteers. Remember they have a life outside of your organisation.
  • Everyone can make mistakes. Look at them as a learning opportunity.
  • Make sure your volunteers are covered by appropriate insurance.
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