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Youthworx Productions: Putting a Spotlight on Supporting At-Risk Young People

August 9, 2017

Last updated on March 16, 2021

Youthworx is a Social Traders’ certified social enterprise media production company, providing training and employment to disadvantaged young people.

Jon Staley, General Manager of Youthworx, looks at the potential for growth and scale with new corporate and government contracts.

How does Youthworx work with at-risk youth?

We’re really passionate about people understanding that at-risk young people – given the right environment and support, can be incredibly talented, creative and professional. Sometimes there can be an assumption that if people are experiencing disadvantage, that they can only operate at a survival level, but if we can tap into these kids capacity in the right way, they’re just fantastically talented young people.

I think as a society we need to be creating intelligent systemic responses to these kinds of issues, and to me an intelligent response is giving people the right kind of skills in the right environment to help them to start to become agents of change in their own life.

It doesn’t work for everyone, but some of our young people are just flying in terms their skills level, their sense of confidence, their ability to work with people and their sense of independence and social connection. There’s such a transformation you can see from the point of first working with us to becoming someone who’s out working professionally as a filmmaker or photographer with clients.

What role has Social Traders played in opening new opportunities?

Social Traders plays such an important bridging role in starting the conversation and getting the right people together. I think it gives buyers confidence, particularly for buyers who may be nervous working with a social enterprise, to know that Social Traders is putting up organisations that they have confidence in to be able to deliver.


Jon Staley, General Manager of Youthworx (image: supplied)

What impact do these contracts have in creating development opportunities for the young people you’re working with?

I think it’s fantastic in terms of an understanding of your place in the world and feeling that you have a skill that is of real value. Before young people come into our media production business, they have a lot of skills based training so they’re really primed and ready to go. They are fantastic at understanding the importance of their role working with clients and they’re generally just great to work with.

When they come out on shoots they’re really positive, friendly and professional. Most of our clients’ experience working with us is that they wouldn’t necessarily know that we’re a social enterprise. We can deliver the job just as any other film production company or photography services would, but with the added bonus that we’re employing a young person.

Who are some of the Social Traders buyers you have worked with so far?

We’ve had some initial work with the Rail Academy to do a few photo shoots and one film shoot. They’ve gone really well and the relationship has been really smooth, so they’re now very keen to continue to build that relationship and have asked us to put aside some future dates.

We’ve also just started a conversation with the North Western Alliance. They came out to meet us at our studio to learn and understand more about what we do and they’ve asked us to pitch to work with them on an ongoing basis for the next few years.

We’re now learning about how to negotiate those kinds of proposals and partnerships, which is certainly a different kind of work to our traditional service area working with NFPs. We’re excited to be a part of that conversation on many levels, on a social impact level, on a product and services level, and to be able to build a greater understanding of the potential to grow the capability of at-risk young people.

If these contracts go ahead, what would these contracts mean for the growth and scale of Youthworx?

I think it could just give us the confidence to be able to employ significantly more young people and ultimately for me that’s the end game. I deeply believe in the training that we provide, but the employment for me is the icing on the cake. Putting money in someone’s pocket and giving them real responsibilities is really concrete acknowledgement of their skills and that is most powerful in terms of transformation.

At the moment we employ about five young people in the business and then we scale that out on a project basis. I think if we knew that we had longer term contracts I’d be looking to double that.

What shift are you seeing in awareness and attitudes towards social enterprise procurement?

I think there’s just more willingness, more understanding and genuinely more excitement about the possibilities and what it means to have a social impact spend. I think there’s also the understanding that working with social enterprise doesn’t mean that you need to compromise on quality and that’s an important part of the conversation.

When we started Youthworx it was about genuinely providing an option for young people, I never knew that there’d be this movement toward social procurement, but I welcome it – it’s great that it’s happening. It’s really exciting and if we can be more sustainable and employ more young people all the better.

Stream Youthworx new film ‘Brown Paper Bag’ – winner of Best Achievement in Indigenous Filmmaking at the St Kilda Film Festival 2017.

Youthworx is a ST certified social enterprise. Find out more about ST certification here.

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