Gill Millar VOYC Devon Board Member Training and qualifications for youth workers – what do we need?


Training and qualifications for youth workers – what do we need?

At the VOYC/Space* conference in February this year, people talked a lot about the need for more training for youth workers, both voluntary and paid. VOYC and space* are responding to these requests in Devon, with the creation of space*’s new training package and VOYC’s excellent safeguarding training. It is great that Devon organisations are recognising the need for training for its local youth workers – but spare a thought for the youth workers in many other parts of the country where there is very little available in terms of training and support for youth workers.

Despite fewer youth work posts within local authorities, there are still thousands of youth workers employed, predominantly in voluntary organisations, though also by statutory bodies and a small number of private companies and social enterprises, and potentially millions more working as volunteers in local and national youth organisations.

As young people’s lives change, youth workers have to adapt to help young people achieve their potential and meet new challenges. Our training and development needs to embed youth work’s core values and approaches and provide youth workers with an inner ‘toolkit’ to enable them to adapt to new situations and create new opportunities for young people to develop their understanding, skills and confidence in ways that assist them to be active agents in determining how their lives will pan out.

So the need for youth work training and qualifications is even greater. But our professional (JNC qualified) workforce is ageing, and not being replaced by enough younger new recruits. Just as it seems that the value of youth work in supporting young people in difficult circumstances is coming back into the national headlines, our profession is showing signs of decline.

In an ideal world, everyone who wanted or needed youth work qualifications would be able to access them close to where they do their youth work. But at the moment that really isn’t happening in most parts of the country. Level 2 and 3 courses are few and far between – and often too expensive for smaller youth work employers or for part-time and volunteer youth workers. Few youth organisations currently offer apprenticeships as a way of building a career in youth work for a range of reasons including cost and lack of full-time work opportunities. And while graduates of degree level youth work qualifications have a good record of getting jobs at the end of their course, fewer people are choosing to apply for youth work degrees at universities.

What should we as a youth work sector be doing to reverse these trends?

Here are a few thoughts from me as a starting point: 

  • Youth work needs some good ‘careers materials’ – basic information on how to become a youth worker, where to find training opportunities, how to get started and how to progress. And maybe an ad campaign like the ones we often see for teaching.
  • In regions and local areas, youth work employers and potential training providers could form partnerships to look at innovative ways of providing training and qualifications at affordable prices in accessible settings, including elements of distance learning, and match training opportunities to where there is demand.
  • Bring more young people into youth work through creating and promoting youth work apprenticeships that provide training alongside intensive experience of face to face work with young people.

What do you think should be done to make sure that we have enough confident, competent and creative youth workers in Devon and elsewhere? Let us know what you think and maybe together we can make a difference for youth work and for young people. 

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