Youth Work field education

Youth Work field education is a core component of the Bachelor of Social Science (Youth Work) program. It provides students on-the-job and industry-based educational experiences and prepares them for professional practice in youth work.

Students achieve meaningful learning through actual practice and experience in the world of work. And by engaging in negotiated project-based work and supervised placements in agencies that work with young people students make a valuable contribution to youth sector agencies.

Students report finding field education the most exciting and useful component of the degree. Field education provides students the opportunity to apply theory to practice, develop their generic and professional skills, and improve their employability and work-readiness.

All youth work students complete field education in the 2nd and 3rd year of the Bachelor of Social Science (Youth Work) program.

For more information please contact the Youth Work Field Education Coordinator, Mic Emslie.

Youth Work student placement videos

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When do youth work students do field education?

Students must satisfactorily complete 2 field education placements as part of the Bachelor of Social Science (Youth Work) program:

  • 2nd year: students complete industry engaged project-based work during 2nd semester
  • 3rd year: students complete a 35 day placement

The exact make-up of the 35 day placement is negotiable, depending on student and agency needs, availability, program dates and timetabling.

What’s in it for agencies who provide field education?

There are a range of benefits in offering field education to youth work students.

  • RMIT Youth Work students bring a range of skills and competencies to the workplace. This includes a solid engagement with contemporary youth work theory and practice, which they are ready and motivated to apply. A student can bring fresh perspectives, new insights, innovative ideas, energy and enthusiasm.
  • 2nd year students complete industry engaged project work, which can range from assisting with planning and delivering forums and workshops, group programs, research and audits, funding applications and producing resources. Students make an invaluable contribution to agencies through their project work activities.
  • Students also undertake project work while on placement. Students can make a worthwhile contribution to your agency and examples of previous years project work include: assisting with community, social and sporting events and activities; making a contribution to a larger project the agency is working on, and; doing an audit or research project on some aspect of the agency's work.
  • Engaging students on project work and placements offers the chance to enhance your skills in supervision, and encourages and supports a learning culture within organisations.
  • Agencies and staff can believe they have something special to offer the education of future youth workers, and providing students field education is a way of being involved in shaping the students professional practice.
  • And training students at your workplace can also assist with your recruitment needs. It is a brilliant way of finding skilled and enthusiastic youth workers, who are also familiar with your organisation.

We acknowledge providing placements is a lot of work for agency supervisors and their teams. Providing field education makes an invaluable contribution to preparing students for professional practice in Youth Work. We greatly appreciate the role of workers and services in providing field education.

For 2nd year field education

What type of industry-based project work do students do?

2nd year students complete industry engaged project-based work. And while on placement 3rd year students have to be engage in some project work. The nature of the project work can be negotiated between the student and agency.

The project work needs to be something that is beneficial to the student’s learning and of interest to them, at the same time as making a worthwhile contribution to the agency. The project work should also fit in with the student’s level of confidence and competence.

The objectives and tasks of the project work need to be articulated on the Project Work Brief in 2nd year, and for 3rd year student on the Placement Agreement Form. For 3rd year field education a discussion on the project work should begin at the pre-placement interview between the student and the agency supervisor, and then the objectives and tasks need to be completed for the 3 way meeting. 

The objectives and tasks of your project work need to be:

  • realistic and achievable in the time frame of the placement
  • of benefit to your learning and to the agency
  • relevant to youth work practice and to the objectives of Youth Work Field Ed
  • considerate of what will happen after you finish, especially if young people are involved and require on-going support

The project work could be:

  • doing a small and achievable 'one -off' project from start to finish
  • making a contribution to a larger project the agency is working on
  • beginning a project, that you can then hand over to someone else to continue
  • doing a research project, or part of
  • doing an audit of some aspect of the agency
  • putting together an information session
  • developing and / or reviewing a policy
  • assessing practice or service delivery
  • organising a one day event
  • individual case work, group work, community development or advocacy related
  • a specialised or targeted program or event
  • concerned with bringing in learning from the course to the agencies practice
  • assisting with community, social and / or sporting day activities and camps 

Previously students have done the following examples of project work for field education:

  • joining in with the running of group programs
  • contributing to the development of anti-bullying initiatives
  • assisting with service reviews
  • helping with setting up community forums and youth summits
  • playing a key role in organising and attending camps
  • supporting student welfare initiatives
  • auditing the accessibility of a service for young men
  • co-teaching young people assertiveness skills
  • resourced a local network on particular issues
  • taking part in community education projects on drug and alcohol awareness
  • playing a key role in writing funding applications
  • helping out with recreational activities
  • taking part in researching local issues
  • assisting with organising a youth week or refugee week event
  • being involved with homework clubs
  • contributing to the development of worker safety procedures
  • contributing to policy development
  • helping out as an integration aide
  • being involved in surveying young people and local service providers on their needs
  • supporting before and after school activities
  • co-deliver human relations classes
  • playing a major role in local youth needs analysis
  • assisting with non-attendees programs in schools
  • assisting with the review and analysis of policy

See examples of youth work student's placement project work:

I have a project in mind, what do I do?

If you have a project in mind please contact the Youth Work Field Education Coordinator, Mic Emslie, to discuss it further.

For 3rd year field education

What is a good youth work field education placement?

There are many agencies that can take youth work students on placement.  However there are a number of requirements agencies need to meet for it to be satisfactory for an RMIT youth work placement.  These are:

  1. A placement that involves working with young people aged 12-25 as the primary client or focus:
    • this may also involve working with their families however, the young person is the client
    • it may also involve working in a policy organisation that writes policy about young people (eg. Office for Youth; Centre for Multicultural Youth Issues; Youth Affairs Council of Victoria)
  1. A placement that will give the student the opportunity to develop their professional practice and competence in a range of youth work skills through some direct practice experience in working with young people eg. working with groups of young people and/or working with individual young people, and through experiencing professional practice in an organisational setting.
  2. A placement that will give the student the opportunity to undertake project work that is beneficial to the student's learning and also makes a worthwhile contribution to the agency.
  3. A placement that will give the student the opportunity for experiential learning, to practice, observe and think about some of the ideas presented in the RMIT youth work program, and to reflect upon and link the relationships between theoretical perspectives and field experience; particularly in relation to: notions of justice; advocacy; representations of young people; community service delivery; community development/building; power and politics; and policy (development and in practice).
  4. A placement that is supervised by a qualified youth worker or an experienced (with young people) community services worker, who can provide induction, supervision of all professional practice and organisational activities the student is involved with, and write an agency supervisor's report. The supervision must be regular and meaningful, and facilitate reflective practice and attend to the student's support, educational and administrative needs.
  5. A placement that will prepare students for employment in the youth sector; eg provides knowledge, skills and experience in the working with young people, teaches about lines of accountability and management processes; and models good team work and communication skills in a work setting.

Who can be an agency supervisor and what is involved?

To be an agency supervisor for a youth work student you need to meet the following:

  1. They need to be a qualified youth worker or an experienced (with young people) community services worker
  2. They need to be currently employed in a position in the agency where the student will do placement
  3. Their position of employment must involve working with young people aged 12-25 as the primary client or focus
  4. They need to have had at least 6 months experience in their current position and / or 12 months experience in similar positions of employment involving working with young people 12-25 as the primary client or focus
  5. They must have the commitment, time and support from their management to support the student's learning and to the meet the roles outlined below for the agency supervisor

The role of the agency supervisor involves the following activities:

  1. Complete the youth work field ed agency expression of interest form when contacted and interested in taking a student on placement
  2. Meet with prospective students at a pre-placement interview. 
  3. Following the pre-placement interview assess the prospective student's appropriateness to undertake a placement in your agency and inform the student of whether a placement will proceed
  4. Meet with the student and Uni tutor for a 3 way meeting.  One aspect of this meeting will be to finalise and sign the student's placement agreement form, which will include an outline of the student's learning and project work objectives and tasks, and an agreement on the frequency and duration of supervision meetings.  At this meeting, agency supervisors should be provided by the Uni tutor copies of the insurance of youth work field ed form, a blank copy of the agency supervisor report template, and a copy of ideas for agency supervisors on supervising students
  5. Ensure the student commences placement only after they have attended to all of the requirements for completing and submitting the placement agreement form
  6. Keep a copy of the completed and signed placement agreement form, which the student is to provide to them at the first day of placement, in a safe and secure location
  7. Provide the student with an induction to the agency. Ideas for induction are in the ideas for agency supervisors on supervising students we provide to you.  The agency supervisor also needs to ensure the student is aware of the required occupational health and safety information outlined on the last page of the placement agreement form
  8. Provide regular and meaningful supervision of all professional practice and organisational activities the student is involved with, that also facilitates reflective practice and attends to the student's support, educational and administrative needs.  The supervision meetings should be at least 1 hour per week
  9. Contact the Uni tutor if there are changes to be made to the placement agreement form
  10. Contact the Uni tutor if the student has missed time sufficient enough to require that extra days be added to the placement.  An extension to placement must be negotiated between the agency supervisor, Uni tutor and the student.  The Uni tutor and / or field ed coordinator must give formal approval for such an extension.  This is particularly important in terms of assessment and insurance as new dates need to be set for these arrangements
  11. Contact the Uni tutor promptly if assistance is required with resolving difficulties on placement
  12. Meet with the student during the last week of their placement to complete the agency supervisor report, and keep a copy of this
  13. Provide feedback on the youth work field ed program, by completing an agency supervisor feedback form, which will be provided by the youth work field ed coordinator after the completion of the student's placement

What are the steps for setting up 3rd year placement?

Students complete a personal information form, where they are asked to research and nominate of agencies where they would prefer to do placement.

Based on the student’s preferences, agencies are contacted by a worker at RMIT who enquires whether the agency is interested and are able to offer a student placement. If agencies are able to offer a placement they are asked to complete an agency expression of interest form.

Students are notified to contact the agency, to make a time to meet for a pre-placement interview to discuss the possibility of a placement.

At this time, some agencies have their own process which can include requesting the student send a resume and cover letter, and / or respond to a list of questions. Please let the worker from RMIT who contacts you to discuss the possibility of a placement and / or the student know of this requirement.

The pre-placement interview

The pre placement interview is an opportunity for you to meet the prospective student and discuss their hopes, interests and requirements for the placement. It is also the chance for you to make an initial assessment of the student’s suitability to do a placement with your agency.

These are some ideas of what you might like to attend to in the pre-placement interview with the student. You may want to take notes at this meeting, so you can refer back to them in assessing whether or not the student placement can proceed.

Introduce the student to the agency

  • this can include describing the program, setting, organizational structure, focus of the work, profile of service users
  • you can describe what the agency can offer students in terms of contact with service user, involvement in projects and observation of practice
  • some discussion around the agency’s expectations of students on placement can be useful, including being interested and confident in the agreed upon project and in terms of being a member of the staff team
  • remember to provide the student the chance to ask questions about the agency

Find out a bit about the student

  • what course, year of study, subjects relating specifically to placement are they doing
  • inquire about the specifics of the placement, like the focus, learning objectives, length, dates
  • discuss student availability and the agency’s flexibility regarding placement times
  • hear about the students interests, knowledge, skills and experience they will bring to the placement
  • does the student have a drivers license and / or car and will this be important for a placement with you? 

Discuss your thoughts and the student’s ideas for the project work

  • you might like to come to an agreement about the project work in this meeting, or provide some further time for negotiating and deciding this
  • find out if the student has any experience, skills and knowledge relevant to the proposed project work
  • inquire what are the students initial thoughts around how the project work could get off the ground?

Start talking about supervision and support

  • talk about supervision and support for the student
  • inform the student about the induction to the agency that would be provided, what would be involved and who in the agency would do this
  • say who would supervise the student, and describe this persons role, education and experience
  • begin a discussion of supervision to be further clarified in the meeting with the university tutor
  • find out from the student what they would be interested in regarding supervision and discuss what the agency would want to provide to adequately support the student

Further questions

  • provide a time for any further questions, and you might also like to give the student a tour of the agency

Next step

  • you might want to decide at this meeting to proceed with the placement, when in the next step is for the student to set up a meeting time with themselves, the agency supervisor and the university tutor
  • or you might want to give both the student and yourself the chance to think about and assess the possibility of the placement going ahead, and agree the student call you in a couple of days. If this is the case ensure the student has your correct contact info. If then you decide to proceed with the placement the next step is for the student to set up a meeting time with themselves, the agency supervisor and the university tutor

The 3-way meeting

If after the pre-placement interview you and the student decide to go ahead with a placement the next step is for the student to organise a meeting between yourself, them and their University Tutor. The student is responsible for setting a date and time that is suitable for everyone.  This meeting will generally take place at the agency, the student and University Tutor will travel to the agency for this meeting.

Before the 3 way meeting it is expected the student has developed draft learning and project work tasks and objectives based on the pre-placement interview.  These should be nearly finalised and will from the basis of activities to be agreed upon in the 3 way meeting.  An agreement about supervision will also be negotiated and finalised at this meeting.

At the 3 way meeting the University tutor needs to be satisfied that the student will be properly supervised and supported while on placement and that the learning activities in the placement agreement form are achievable and fit within the field ed curriculum (learning objectives).  The University tutor will also make sure that the student is made aware of any ethical professional issues involved in the placement, occupational health and safety issues, privacy and confidentiality and any other policy/organisational requirements.

The placement agreement form is to be signed by everyone at the 3 way and then before the student can begin counting hours towards their placement they need to submit this to RMIT to activate the placement insurance.

Where have students previously done placements?

Here is a list of organisations students have done placements over the last few years:

  • Melton South Primary School
  • Thornbury High School
  • Collingwood Alternative School
  • St Vergina & St Bishoy Coptic Orthodox Church
  • Isik College
  • Frankston Youth Resource Centre
  • Maribyrnong & Moonee Valley LLEN
  • Moreland Hall
  • Interchange Outer East
  • Banyule City Council
  • Peninsula Youth and Family Services
  • YouthLaw
  • DHS Youth Justice (Barwon Youth)
  • Anglicare Box Hill Foster Care
  • Brentwood Secondary College
  • South Oakleigh Secondary College
  • Interchange Western
  • Lalor North Sec Coll
  • Knox City Council Youth Services
  • Reach Out for Kids (ROK)
  • Salvation Army / DHS Contingency Unit (1-12) Dandenong
  • Carlton – Parkville Youth Services
  • Carwatha College
  • Banksia Secondary College
  • DHS Northern Metro Region
  • Department of Human Services Box Hill
  • Darebin Youth Services
  • Salvation Army Crisis Services St Kilda
  • Wyndham Legal Services
  • Salvation Army Bayside Youth Hostel
  • DHS Frankston
  • City of Whitehorse Youth Connexions
  • Reichstein Foundation
  • Cando4kids
  • YSAS Outreach Wilum Program
  • City of Casey
  • Doveton Neighbourhood Learning Centre
  • Anglicare
  • Brimbank City Soccer Club
  • St James College
  • Rosebud Secondary College
  • YSAS
  • Harrison Community Services
  • Concern Australia
  • Moreland City Council
  • DHS Secure Welfare Boys
  • MYSS
  • Killester College
  • Hope Street Youth and Family Services
  • DHS Parkville Youth Residential Centre
  • Stride Foundation
  • Kingston Youth Services
  • Bayside City Council
  • Sacred Heart Mission Women’s House
  • Moreland Hall
  • Carnegie Education Centre
  • Montague Continuing Ed Centre
  • Ringwood Secondary College
  • Lynall Hall Community School
  • YMCA Camping Adventures
  • Bass Coast Youth Services
  • Birrabi YSAS Rehab Centre
  • MacKillop Family Services
  • Brentwood Secondary College
  • Southern Health
  • Open House
  • Cardinia Shire
  • Greater Dandenong Community Health Service
  • Whitelion
  • La Trobe University, Refuge Health Research centre
  • Kombiz Youth Network
  • Knox Youth Services
  • Hume City Council
  • DHS JJ Box Hill
  • YSAS Box Hill
  • Darebin City Council
  • The Salvation Army St Kida Crisis Services
  • Southern Metropolitan Youth Justice Unit
  • Reconnect West
  • Whitelion
  • University High School
  • Youth Connexions, Whitehorse Youth Services
  • Brimbank Youth Services YMCA
  • YACVic
  • South East Local Learning Employment Network (SELLEN)
  • DHS Youth Services Head Office
  • Kamaruka Education Centre
  • Victorian Institute of Sport
  • EastCare
  • Youth Pathways Westagate Community Initiatives Program (WCIG)
  • Family Life Youthworx
  • Victorian Arabic Social Services
  • Linking Young People to Employment and Training (LYPET) RMIT Bundoora
  • DHS Child Prot Preston North West Region
  • DHS Child Protection North West Region
  • Moreland City Council Youth Services
  • EastCare
  • Collingwood Alternative School
  • Frankston Youth Resource Centre
  • Maribyrnong & Moonee Valley LLEN
  • Banyule City Council
  • YouthLaw
  • South Oakleigh Secondary College
  • Knox City Council Youth Services
  • Reach Out for Kids (ROK)
  • Carlton – Parkville Youth Services
  • Carwatha College
  • Banksia Secondary College
  • Department of Human Services Box Hill
  • Darebin Youth Services
  • Salvation Army Crisis Services St Kilda
  • Wyndham Legal Services
  • City of Whitehorse Youth Connexions
  • Reichstein Foundation
  • Anglicare
  • Concern Australia
  • Brentwood Secondary College

Can students do a work placement overseas?

Yes they can. Here are some accounts from youth work students who have done field education outside of Australia.

Bec Jacgung - USA

Where overseas did you do your placement?

I did my placement at an American summer camp, Called Camp Clifton which was in a small town in Ohio, USA called Yellow Springs. It was an hour out of Cincinnati.

Why did you choose to do a placement overseas?

In 2008 I went to this Camp and had the greatest time. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to do my placement here as It was working with young people and children, as well as experiencing a different type of culture and people. It was great to see a different culture and different young peoples perspectives on Australia.

What was the process for setting up the overseas placement?

I did my placement through a program called Camp America. Seeing as I had already been to the Camp which I went to, the process was a little bit different than usual. However the process the first time was:

i. Confirm with the Youth work field ed Tutor to confirm that this type of placement is suitable.

ii. Register on the Camp America website

iii. Follow the process with Camp America, which included an interview as well as payment.

iv. Arrange project work to be completed with the Camp Director

v. Attend Camp America orientation - to help prepare with culture shock.

What did you get to do on the placement?

At Camp I was a counsellor. The kids came at 9 in the morning and left at 5pm. My camp was very unique and different to other camps. (most camps you sleep over night in cabins with the young people. Throughout the day I would facilitate group activities such as arts/crafts, soccer, basketball, archery, assist in high ropes and team building exercises & swimming as well as a variety of other activities. I taught the young people about the Australian way and culture. My project work was to facilitate activities on a daily basis with the young people.

What did you learn about youth work?

During my time on placement I learnt that young people can be very unpredictable and you must be prepared for anything! Having a snake dangled in front of you is an example [young Americans are fearless, especially when it comes to snakes] I also learnt that you must always be patient, and respect cultural and religious differences. Young people are honest and will tell you exactly what is on their minds. I learnt how to mediate between friendship groups who may be at war with each other and make young people gain respect for one another.

Would you recommend an overseas placement to other youth work students?

Definitely. Its a win-win situation. You get to travel and experience a different culture as well as complete your placement. Other students will also be more inclined to read your journals and respond as they are interested that your placement is unlike theirs.

Read more about Bec's experience with Camp America