BA (Hons) Youth and Community Work student, Lewis Brooks and graduate Dan Oliver, both work for The Hwb, Blaenavon. Following Dan’s experience on the course, he encouraged Lewis to follow in his footsteps.
Dan Oliver, graduate:
“I started my work at the organisation when I was at University. Back then it was called The Neon Centre. It wasn’t long after graduation, I took over the role of Service Manager. Through the work I’ve done, our income has increased from £20,000 to £500,000 in just four years; which is a massive achievement.
What I enjoy most about my job is setting up new projects, developing staff and getting young volunteers on board, through training programmes and apprentices. My biggest challenge is securing funding. This is something that I have taught myself to do and it has been a massive learning curve. Other responsibilities I have are organising projects and outcomes, managing staff, leading on the strategic direction of the organisation and setting up social enterprise, to generate income for the project. In addition, I ensure the appropriate policies and procedures are in place, work with partner organisations, funders and other stakeholders. When I manage to find the time, I also work with young people.
My interest in youth and community work began when I started teaching music - to young people who couldn’t afford lessons. Enjoying the work I was doing, the degree became a natural progression from my work with young people. Looking back it feels like I grew from a musician, to a youth worker overnight. When I started the BA (Hons) Youth and Community Work, I had well rounded placements in both the statutory and voluntary sector. These roles gave me an understanding of the wider context of youth work in Wales. My role today is somewhere in-between both worlds.
Reflecting on my experience of the course, learning about the sociology, psychology and politics of youth work was extremely important. It exposed me to a new way of thinking. I learnt that being a good youth worker is being open, resilient and reflective, having strong principles and values, as well as being able to empathise when needed. Having the right character as a youth worker, can essentially be your best resource. When studying the course, you need to take in as much information as you can and learn how best to apply it.
The course really inspired me in terms of working with young people, to the point where I wanted to take a step further. Towards the end of my degree, I applied to start fostering – something which has been incredibly fulfilling.”
Lewis Brookes, student:
“Working for the Neon Centre (now known as The Hwb) I felt ready to progress and needed the qualifications to be able to do so. My supervisor, Dan Oliver, recommended I enrol onto the BA (Hons) Youth and Community Work at the University of South Wales. Dan is a graduate of the course and highly recommended it. I took his advice and was successful in landing a place. Since enrolling, the course has helped me to relate the practice I’ve had in the workplace to the theory. It has also provided me with knowledge to improve within my role of Project Officer. I’ve gained access to people in the field and have benefited from networking opportunities.
My role at The Hwb involves bid writing and completing funding applications. I also run an open access youth club on Mondays, work on a project for Blaenavon Heritage site on Tuesdays and supervise a youth club on Fridays, run by the youth themselves. My work for the heritage site involves helping youth ambassadors to learn about the history of the site, as well as that of other heritage sites. I'm particularly proud of the work I’ve done with the Friday open access sessions. The concept of youth running the sessions was my initiative and my role is to recognise the work they do towards the Millennium Volunteers programme.
The best thing about my work is that I have more freedom to be creative than I would at a local authority. I have been fortunate that my ideas have been implemented, which is something I can be proud of. I have the flexibility to provide a service that I believe inspires young people. Following graduation, I hope to continue my work at The Hwb and to progress within my working environment. Having studied the course I'll continue to reflect on my work, and to utilise my best qualities as a youth worker.”