6 Pathways to Start Your Career in Community Services
The Community services industry in Australia is growing year on year, with thousands of jobs being added across the country in many different areas such as youth work, counselling, social services, individual support and more. Here’s everything you need to know about working in Community services.
This sector in Australia is full of rewarding job opportunities, where employees work to better the lives of the community around them. Choosing a career in the community services sector is a decision to make a positive impact on the world, helping people to live happier, healthier lives. Before you look closely at study paths it’s important to learn more about the sector as a whole. The range of courses and job outcomes is huge. Here are 6 potential pathways you might take into community services.
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Become a Counsellor
Counselling is a popular career choice for many Australians. According to the Department of Employment’s Job Outlook website, there are currently nearly 21,000 people working as counsellors, and over the last five years the number of jobs has grown strongly. The workforce is fairly mature, with an average age of 46 years, making this an ideal second (or third) career for many.
Typically, people become counselors after earning either a bachelor’s degree in social sciences or counselling or a postgraduate qualification, although it is also possible to enter the industry at certificate level, depending on the job role. This is a great career for people who understand the importance of support networks, and equipping people with the necessary tools to live their best lives.
Develop your Skills in Mental Health
Mindframe statistics show one in four adults will experience mental health issues. That’s a quarter of the population requiring treatment or support. The pathways into the mental health industry are wide and varied. Many workers in this field enter mental health after doing some work or volunteer experience in the community services or health sector; who find they might want to branch out into mental health work.
There are specific qualifications you can study that give you specialist skills in mental health. First-hand experience can also help you to take the next step: getting accepted onto a degree or mental health certificate course. Many people have a friend or family member who has mental health issues, and this can often serve as a pathway into the industry; as potential workers see the value that formal mental health care can provide.
Work with People with a Disability
People with disability (PwD) are valuable members of our community. Some of us are born with a disability, and many of us will acquire a disability, through age or some other event. There are now 140,400 workers in the aged and disabled carers sector, according to Job Outlook, making this a very large profession. Aged and disabled carers are now often called ‘workers in Individual Support’ to better reflect the service they provide, which is individualised to the client’s needs.
Aged and disabled carers work in most parts of Australia, and nearly all job roles are in health care and social assistance. The most popular educational level to enter this profession is Certificate IV or Certificate III, and 51% of workers in this industry fall into that category, with 16% of workers holding a bachelor degree as their highest qualification.
Formalise your Caring Experience
Australia is now beginning to formally acknowledge the value of paid and unpaid carer work. In fact, the ABC called for Australia’s 2.7 million unpaid carers to be better recognised, pointing out that “among people receiving publicly funded aged care, 32.4% are also receiving care from a family member or friend.”
This demonstrates a pool of potential workers; those who could formalise their caring experience via an entry level qualification, such as a Certificate II in Community Services which adds to existing skills giving learners the understanding of how to navigate legal and ethical frameworks, policies and procedures in the community services industry.
Enter Community Services as a Career Change
Many people enter the community services industry as a second or third career. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that it’s an increasingly busy and in-demand sector; there are plenty of jobs for older workers; and there are a range of jobs including full-time and part-time; casual and contract roles, suiting many people; so the appeal is broad.
Many people will find that they have lots of transferrable experience that applies to the industry, such as communication, managerial, organisational or caring skills. Depending on the role you choose in community services, age and experience can be extremely valuable commodities. For example, nearly 10% of ‘welfare workers’ in community services (including job titles such as community worker, disabilities services officer or family support) are aged over 60.
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Support Those with Drug and Alcohol Problems
Alcohol and drug abuse is becoming more widespread in Australia, according to recent drug and alcohol statistics. This means there is more call than ever for support workers and counsellors with particular skills in this area of community services. As the community services arena becomes more competitive, many students will choose to specialise in a particular area to give themselves a focus and potentially open up more jobs.
Choosing a qualification like the Certificate IV in Alcohol and Other Drugs gives workers the skills to deal with clients who are facing problems with getting their lives back on track. Work in this area would be a fulfilling contribution to the community; a job role area that many people would find a valuable entry point to working in the wider community services industry in a meaningful way.
Community services job roles are on the rise
These are just six examples of potential paths into this job sector. In fact, there are dozens more, suitable for people at all stages of their career. Whether you’re a school leaver hoping to gain your first formal role, or a career changer later in life, there are almost countless opportunities out there. Jobs in community services are found all over Australia as well, from big cities to regional areas, and as shown above, there are just so many ways to make your mark. Do your research before you make a career move and you’ll find that the possibilities are almost endless.
Yvette McKenzie is the Content Strategist at online educator Upskilled. She is passionate about education media, content marketing, new technologies and the ever-changing Australian careers landscape.
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