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South Sydney Youth Services Inc

An Education Case Worker provided support to more than 60 young early school leavers. The individual case plan approach, with a strong emphasis on progressive assessment, was highly successful and resulted in higher than usual employment and training outcomes. A significant number of participants gained employment or enrolled in accredited courses that will improve their employment options.

Background

South Sydney Youth Services offers a range of services that include practical assistance with employment, accommodation, education programs, mental health and drug and alcohol counselling, community arts and performance.

Approximately 40% of the Service's clients are Aboriginal young people, most are unemployed, with a significant number falling into the category of long-term unemployed.


Project Objectives

The six-month project involved using the National Reporting System (NRS) for the accurate assessment of clients' skills and to establish welfare case plans directly linked to educational case plans. The Service's approach was based on the philosophy that dealing with a young person's welfare and practical problems is essential to the achievement of learning outcomes. Through the project the Service hoped to develop strong links with other agencies such as TAFE, Job Network agencies, the Job Placement Employment Training Program (JPET) and other welfare and training providers.

The project aimed to assist 70 young people aged between 15-24 years who had left school early and who required assistance with education, training and employment. The strategy was to run the HELP program, with the additional one-on-one support of an Education Case Worker.

Through a process of reflective self assessment, it was anticipated that clients would:

  • ·develop a clearer understanding of their own skills
  • develop communication, literacy/numeracy skills
  • increase their self-esteem
  • improve their employment and/or educational options.


Project Activities

An Education Case Worker assessed each client and provided practical support and counselling to help them define and achieve their goals. Support included individual assistance with resume preparation, interview skills, course and employment search skills.

Individual case plans used a holistic approach, and focused on the participant's welfare, practical financial needs and educational needs.

Participants were assessed at intake, mid term, and exit. This structure was flexible enough to accommodate participants who were experiencing more problems than others and needed more intensive assistance.

The first assessment allowed the Case Worker to gain an understanding of what individuals wanted from the course and to identify possible hurdles the person might experience during the six months. These sessions were critical, as they gave the Case Worker the opportunity to build rapport with the target group.

The focus of each session with the Case Worker was a process of self-assessment. The mid session assessment identified adjustments needed to keep the participant's progress on track and to monitor overall performance.

Initial planning and feedback sessions were held with the group to determine which program would satisfy their needs. This approach ensured that training was interesting and appropriate to personal and career goals. Courses were offered in music, sound engineering, radio production, life skills and first aid. Seven young women took advantage of a Women in Music course.

Project Outcomes

The pilot was very successful, with 61 young people participating in the project during the six-month period. The extra assistance provided by the Case Worker led to higher than usual employment and training outcomes.

Seventeen young people involved in the project successfully moved into further training or work. For example,

  • seven young people gained places in TAFE courses
  • one young person gained a scholarship into a private accredited video making course
  • four young people found work after developing resumes and job skills with the Case Worker
  • one young person gained full time employment at Fox Studios as a camera assistant.

Particularly successful was the Sound Engineering option. Participation in this course and the employment focused support from the Case Worker resulted in three participants gaining work experience with sound companies, most notably Sony Music, which subsequently agreed to train three young people in sound engineering.


Success Factors

The one-on-one support from the Case Worker was crucial to the success of the project. Prior to the courses, the Case Worker established personal contact with agencies that could provide additional services for the participants. These included TAFE, Aboriginal Course Coordinators, key staff in popular courses, and Aboriginal Student support officers at seven of the Sydney Metropolitan TAFE institutes.

A decision to choose courses of direct interest to each participant contributed to the success of the project. The fact that the programs were interesting to young people was crucial to the high participation and retention rates.

The success of the Sound Engineering course was due to the attendance of the Case Worker at most of the classes. His attendance helped establish the rapport necessary to nurture the target group through some difficult stages.


Possible Improvements

In future the Case Worker could work with the participants before they enrolled in their courses. The Case Worker needs to establish rapport very early to assess participants' 'real life' situations and to advise work/program hours that are flexible enough to accommodate other pressures on their time.

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