Celebrating Bristol’s Youth Workers Part One: Nicola LPW

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Holly sets out to discover the highs and lows of being a youth worker, while hearing personal stories and getting some brilliant advice along the way.

Youth workers exist to empower and support the young people they work with, through helping them realise their potential and lead fulfilling lives. Making a real difference to everyone they work with, this interview seeks to find out a bit more about the job and get some tips and advice from those doing it best.

Interview with:

Nicola Garrett

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Tell us a bit about you

My name is Nicola and I absolutely love life! I have 3 beautiful daughters including twins aged 17 and a 19 year old, we all live together with my boyfriend and our pet dog Daisy. I’m very passionate about my job as a Lead Engagement Worker (Youth Worker)  – the best bit is supporting young people and having a laugh along the way. I like to socialise, eat nice food, try to dance and sing and get my nails done regularly.

Describe your average working day

It’s really hard to pin down what an average day is because it’s totally dependent on the young person’s needs. I plan my own diary, my time is divided by leading a team of Engagement workers, admin/attending meetings and working with young people to achieve 1 – 7 of LPW’s outcomes. I signpost and support young people into other services as well as engaging them into positive activities, which is great because I get to join in on the fun stuff as well as supporting them with interviews and attending health appointments.

How did you get into youth work?

I left school with few qualifications and had a family at a young age. I wanted to be a good role model for my Children, so I quit my average day job and went to college to study counseling as well as volunteering at the local youth club. I went on to study and qualified as a youth worker. At this point I was feeling pretty confident at tackling a Level 4 qualification in IAG, I couldn’t believe I passed!! I was working for Connexions as a Positive Activities worker before I got to where I am now in my current job for LPW.

When I was young I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career, I didn’t really have any aspirations. This has made it easy for me to relate to the majority of young people I work with, I like helping them to explore options and to try new things.

What do you love the most about your job?

I love being able to make a difference in people’s lives. I find it really rewarding when you see a young person grow in confidence and develop a broader outlook on life.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? 

I was really good at drama, so I wanted to be an actor! Unfortunately my Year 11 careers advisor told me to be more realistic and to consider getting a job in a shop.

I think that was the worst thing anyone has ever said to me. Now, when a young person tells me what they want to be, I believe in them and help them work out how to achieve their goals, and it’s during that process of trying different things that they decide wha’t best for them.

What’s your best memory of being a teenager? 

I guess as a teenager I didn’t receive pressure from my family to do well, which isn’t a good thing, but it did mean that I was able to just be a teenager, and do what I wanted to do. My mum just wanted me to be happy. I’m from Knowle West and I work here too, and nothing has really changed in the area since I was a teenager. But that’s one of the main reasons I love doing my job, because as a youth worker I’m able to help young people in the area.

What is the worst job you’ve done?

I used to work at the Cargo Club, a warehouse supermarket. I was known as a runner, but I wore roller boots and basically had to roller skate around the warehouse finding items that people wanted to buy. It was an absolute disaster! I just spent the whole time being scared I was going to fall over.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

To believe in yourself and not to take things too seriously. What is meant to be will be, stay positive and appreciate what you’ve got!

What’s the best piece of advice you can give to a young person who is uncertain about the future?

Be open to opportunities and keep trying different things, one day you will hopefully find something you enjoy!

If you want to find a local youth group, you can find loads on Rife Guide using your postcode to search the ones nearest to you. If you’re interested in youth work as a career, have a chat and get advice from your local youth workers at the youth club, or look for jobs advertised at LPW.