Youth Ready for Youth Futures: A Case Study of Project-Based Learning in Youth Work
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Youth Work (YW) programmes are designed for students to build a meaningful toolbox that will enable them to have positive learning experiences, in which pedagogy is integrated with theory, content and practice for workplace readiness. The work integrated learning (WIL) project “Youth Ready for Youth Futures”, a project-based WIL placement package, is developed for Youth Work programmes at Diploma and Certificate IV Australian Qualification Framework levels. It aims at providing opportunities for students to belong and engage with disadvantaged young people within communities of placement. Issues addressed in this project include employability skill development, workforce futures and vocational education and training pathways. Notably, WIL is a compulsory part in the Youth Work curriculum. The project is beneficial to YW students as it provides authentic learning experiences and contributes to student networking and professional identity. The cohorts in YW, identified by RMIT University’s previous research, are those who themselves are in the most part, disadvantaged learners; poor experience of learning, language and literacy needs, and low aspirations prior to attending the university. The engagement framework for the WIL project is drawn from re-engagement frameworks in the field, which are seen to be effective in developing the approach for WIL in this case study. In developing the project, a range of youth communities were invited and partnered in co-design and delivery to ensure students engagement with, belonging to, and contextualising their learning with the workplace settings for the best outcomes of their learning and employability. Findings reveal that the project was highly valued by the communities. It provided community groups with a potential source of future staff, access to new knowledge and professional development. The university also benefitted as it facilitated strong partnerships with industry and community, increased retention rates and attracted students to the program. The findings of the case study may be replicated in other settings and transferable to other educational disciplines. The lesson learnt is how we contextualise student senses of belonging and engagement, and those of the young persons who they are supporting in a community youth development placement setting to enhance positive learning experience and positive outcome of WIL placement.
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