The Evidence Portal

Practical and life skill development

Flexible activity

In this activity, young people are taught practical life skills. The skills taught should empower and enable young people to pursue their goals independently. It could include:

  • Dealing with peer pressure
  • Resisting problem behaviour
  • Healthy decision making 
  • Conflict management
  • Dealing with violence and bullying
  • Cooking and nutrition
  • School problems (e.g. building study or time management skills)
  • Drug and alcohol awareness

The skills that are developed will depend on the young person’s needs and situation.

Young people should be provided with opportunities to test and improve their skills. Mentors should provide feedback and advice to the young person on their skill development. 

Supporting young people to develop these skills can enable them to access other supports they need, develop positive relationships etc. which all play an important role in people’s overall wellbeing.  

How can it be implemented?

Supporting young people to develop practical life skills can be achieved a number of different ways. The method chosen will depend on the needs and preferences of the young person, and possibly the skills of the mentor. 

One-on-one individual support:

  • Skill development can be embedded into existing one-on-one sessions between the mentor and the young person. 
  • The mentor can teach the young person directly and tailor the support provided to their needs.
  • This support is typically provided weekly. Mentors and mentees should see each other for a total of 3-4hrs each week. 

The mentor can also accompany the young person to a relevant training session or class (e.g. a cooking class).

Small group activities or workshops:

  • Groups should consist of 6-8 mentees and 2 co-mentors
  • Groups should be weekly, 50-minute sessions
  • Young people complete activities and engage in group discussions that support relevant skill development


  • Seminars can be conducted monthly
  • They should be conducted by local professionals. These could be mentors or staff from local organisations.

Within these different settings, mentors can help young people learn by: 

  • rehearsing strategies (e.g. role-play negotiating a goal with a parent/carer)
  • practicing skills necessary for goal achievement (e.g., call an agency to obtain information)
  • recognising and celebrating progress
  • challenging the youth to take action.

What should I consider when working with Aboriginal people and communities?

Where possible, local Elders should be involved in the program as mentors or in other activities. This can enhance the cultural connections of young people. It can also improve the level of respectful relationships with local community leaders (Ware, 2013).

Who is the target group?

Practical and life skill building has been implemented with the following target groups:

  • young people at risk of deliquency and substance abuse
  • young people at-risk of mental illness and delinquent behaviours
  • young people transitioning to high school
  • young people transitioning out of foster care

What programs conduct this activity?

  • In the Campus Corps program, young people are supported to strengthen life skills via pro-social activities. 
  • In the Mentoring Program for At-Risk Youth, young people participate in monthly seminars about relevant life skills (e.g. health and nutrition, school problems). 
  • In Project Arrive, young people participate in small group activities that seek to address common adolescent issues. The activities undertaken teach young people practical skills needed to address issues they face (e.g. resolving conflict, dealing with peer pressure). 
  • The TAKE CHARGE program enables youth to appreciate and foster their strengths and confidence by practicing key self-determination skills relating to achievement (e.g., decision-making, problem-solving, planning), building allies (e.g., schmoozing, negotiation, partnership planning), and self-regulation (e.g., thinking positive, managing frustration and stress).

What else should I consider?

Positive mentor-mentee relationships develop over a long time period (generally at least 12-18 months). Meaningful contact needs to be maintained for at least 12-18 months, with effectiveness and influence increasing the longer the relationship is maintained. Some evidence suggests that short-term mentoring programs (6 months or less) may disadvantage at-risk youth as they can reinforce or compound the sense of loss and disappointment frequently linked with other youth-adult relationships (Ware, 2013). This sense of loss can be particularly acutely felt where the relationship has ended poorly or suddenly.

Mentors should continue to support the young person and build their relationship after the ‘at-risk’ period. Mentors should continue to support young people through a phase where positive changes are consolidated.

Further resources

Last updated:

25 Nov 2022

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Informed by lessons of the past, Department of Communities and Justice is improving how we work with Aboriginal people and communities. We listen and learn from the knowledge, strength and resilience of Stolen Generations Survivors, Aboriginal Elders and Aboriginal communities.

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