A Whangarei local man is on a mission to give back to his community by mentoring the area’s youth population.
Youth coach Victor Dunn-Schwenke helps young people who aren’t in school get into training opportunities, gain qualifications and stay off the benefit.
“I want to make a difference for younger generations coming up and be the voice that advocates for them,” says Victor, who works with the Whangarei training provider, People Potential.
He says his own experience as a youth growing up in Whangarei allows him to relate to his clients.
“I had a few dramas coming through school and found it harder to stay engaged,” he says.
“I went down a few wrong paths at school, so now I’m really keen to help out and be that voice to try to steer them straight.”
Now 28, Victor joined the transport industry after leaving school, first working as a courier and eventually a long-haul truck driver before seeing an advertisement for a youth coach with People Potential.
“I saw the opportunity arise and thought I’m going to try for that, as I’d always wanted to work with young people,” Victor says. “I’m able to relate easily to our local youth in our community, because I’ve come through a similar situation.”
People Potential delivers the Ministry of Social Development’s Youth Service Programme, providing free support and mentoring for 16 and 17 year olds from Whangarei’s youth community.
Young people get paired up with youth coaches who help them consider training opportunities and other alternatives to the youth or unemployment benefit.
Victor says his personal style is work with the young person to find out where their personal strengths and interests lie, then support them to work towards specific goals.
“I like to build a rapport with my clients first to gain that trust with them and try to relate to their particular story,” Victor says.
“I’ll listen to them, take on board their situation, try to find out what their interests are and plant a seed. Sometimes our youth need a little encouragement and to feel like someone believes in them.”
He says lack of motivation is very common among his young clients, many of whom suffer from mild anxiety issues, which inhibits them from seeking help.
“That’s often the reason why many clients don’t want to come in in person, which can be a bit of a barrier when dealing with clients.”
He says alcohol and addictions is(are?) also a big problems for many young people, particularly those who have been exposed to these issues at home with whānau and family.
However, People Potential works closely with several Whangarei-based agencies to help young people get back on the straight and narrow.
“Alcohol and drug use is more of a lifestyle thing and if you’re raised and brought up around it, then it turns to be the norm,” Victor says. “Often the teenage bracket that we work with get caught up in the wrong crowd. So, I can put a few options out there for them and try to mentor them into the right place.”
Victor is also working towards his own personal goal of developing professionally as a youth worker, and is now studying the New Zealand Certificate in Youth Work (Level 3), his first formal qualification since leaving school.
He’s taking on the Youth Work qualification with the support of his employer and Careerforce, the Industry Training Organisation (ITO) for the health and wellbeing sectors.
“Our manager offered me the opportunity and I thought, I’m definitely keen to study more about youth work and advance further in the field,” he says.
“I hope to achieve a greater understanding of different tactics to use when I’m out on the field and gain more skills on how to deal with our youth in a more experienced manner.
Victor’s manager Nikki Hawes is passionate about workforce development and shoulder-tapped Vincent and two of his colleagues to study the Level 3 Youth Work qualification.
“I’ve been through my own training experience with Careerforce’s Level 3 Youth Work qualification a couple of years ago and loved it, I found it was really awesome,” Nikki says.
“I believe all the training helps in some way to make us better at what we’re doing, so I’m offering my staff this opportunity. For some of them, it’s the first time they’ve done a youth work qualification.”
Victor says he jumped at the opportunity to study the Youth Work qualification as his dream is to become more advanced in the youth sector and continue to give back to his local community.
“I’d love to become more advanced in the youth work field.”