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Vocational supports within a person’s primary human service- the headspace experience

headspace Youth Mental Health Foundation supports over 100,000 young people each year through its centres and online services. Vocational services is one of the four core streams of support delivered by headspace centres. Over the past 9 years there has been significant growth and learnings with regards to the implementation of vocational supports within a primary youth mental health setting.
The recent Workforce Australia Employment Service Review explicitly named headspace in recommendation (5.194) highlighting headspace’s approach to inform future trials in embedding vocational supports within a person’s primary health service.
This presentation aims to take the audience on a journey through headspace’s introduction to the integration of the vocational stream to its present-day form of a thriving vocational stream in 50 headspace centres, an online integrated work and study service, a career mentoring service and a 150 Work and Study Specialists and a Peer Workforce.
The presentation will explore the challenges that were faced and the amazing opportunities and insights that arose during this time. We will take a candid look at the application of the internationally recognised Individual Placement and Support model in a youth early intervention service and also look at how the online vocational service stepped up and into its own during the COVID years.



Carolyn Watts

Head of Vocational Programs, headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation


Carolyn has 30 years of experience working across education, employment services, social services, and sport with a particular focus on young people. Her key roles have been at both the management and executive management and board level in various not for profits and federal government.

Carolyn has spent the past 9 years at headspace developing innovative ways to support young people with employment and education. Carolyn is responsible for the leadership and management of Work and Study programs and services across the headspace network, including;
• IPS program across 50 headspace Centres
• Work and Study Online
• Career Mentoring
• Work and Study online resources and communities
These headspace programs provide over 4,000 young people each year with personalised, strength based and clinically integrated support.


Karen Fletcher

National Manager for Work and Study Online, headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation

Karen Fletcher is a social worker with extensive experience in youth mental health. She worked directly with high-risk young people for many years and led the development and implementation of a world first service that supports Secondary Schools impacted by suicide. Using her knowledge of the importance of working and studying on young people’s mental health, wellbeing, and vocational recovery, she now works as the National Manager for headspace Work and Study Online, overseeing the delivery of a clinically integrated work and study support service. Karen is passionate about supporting young people to reduce the barriers they face to working or studying and advocating for a holistic approach, where vocational support is integrated into mental health support for all young people.