Sarah talks about her placement experiences on the Youth and Community course

Sarah Sen Youth and Community (Youth Justice)

Sarah Sen is a final year BA (Hons) Youth and Community Work (Youth Justice) student. For her work placement she is a Youth Worker for the Aspire Project, Newport.

For my current placement I work in a small team at Dyffryn Community Centre, tasked with assisting young people who have exited the education system, in completing various qualifications. These include the Princes Trust Qualification, BTEC’s and GCSE’s (a teacher visits regularly to lead on this). My role is centric to supporting the learning of those in attendance, but I’m also responsible for creating a nurturing environment; dealing with a multitude of emotional issues that the young people are experiencing.

The Aspire Project comprises of Year 10 and Year 11 pupils, who are undergoing difficulties in managing their behaviour. One of the biggest challenges I face as a youth worker is learning the best way of responding to this behaviour. Each case needs to be dealt with sensitively and individually. It takes time and patience to find out the cause behind their problems.  You need to earn the trust of the individual in question before they feel ready to open up to you. It’s important not to damage the relationships you’ve built, through the actions you take. Treading carefully when dealing with situations can help maintain the balance between protecting the relationship and maintaining the young person’s wellbeing.

I love developing professional relationships with young people and supporting them through their issues. In my role you never know what situations you are going to have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. This can sometimes lead to a manic working environment. The qualities you need to develop in order to thrive in this environment are resilience, the ability to be able to communicate at a young person’s level, patience and assertiveness. It’s also an added advantage if you have a poker face to work with! Practicing these qualities will help to create a level of understanding between yourself and the young person; giving you both something to work with throughout the process.

The Youth Justice pathway prepares you for a range of roles in non-traditional youth work settings. It’s important to use your work placements to sample the type of job you see yourself in, following the course. My preference would be to enter a career in youth justice or education as I’ve experienced the turnaround in the individuals who have taken on board my advice. It’s rewarding when you find a job that’s measurable. The satisfaction you get motivates you to continue the good work that you do; making a positive impact on someone’s life.

The course is fantastic if you have a desire to make things better for young people. To be successful in this, you need to be open minded, approachable and avoid shying away from uncomfortable situations. Throughout my journey I have sought advice from those around me, whether it’s during classroom sessions or on work placement. The advice I have been given has been invaluable. Most of the time you find out that others have already dealt with a similar problem and can help with what you are experiencing. I am continuously learning from my experiences and the experiences of others. This helps to build confidence in my role which undoubtedly has a positive impact on the youth I support.