You may have put in a job search and come across the term ‘youth worker’ but been unsure what this job entails. Basically, youth workers work with young people between the ages of 13 and 19, although in some cases it can be extended to 11 and 13 and 19 and 25. Their work is designed to help youngsters develop both their personal and social skills allowing them to have a voice, as well as a place in the community and society as a whole.
Many young people are reached through youth work because it is operated though a wide variety of settings and different organisations. As well as local authority providers there are many voluntary organisations which operate at local, regional and national levels. They range from uniformed organisations to faith groups as well as community and interest groups.
There is a great demand for youth work and job opportunities are also appearing in other areas. Besides employment within local authority youth services, there are also openings to be found in local authority areas such as health authorities, leisure, arts and housing, youth offending teams and a wide range of voluntary organisations.
Typical Work Activities
Supporting and mentoring individuals so they become accepted socially
Assessing the needs of young people and putting together programs relating to such areas as fitness, health, drugs, smoking, relationships and bullying
Running community projects, arts-based activities, sporting activities, residential activities and outdoor educational activities
Offering counseling to certain individuals
Recruiting, managing and training staff, including volunteer workers
Improving services and resources for young people by recognising and pursuing sources of funding for projects
Drawing up business plans and making presentations to funding bodies
Liaising, meeting and networking with social services, the police and educational establishments
Undertaking administrative roles such as answering queries and verifying information
Working closely with parents and community groups to gain support for improved provision of activities
What qualifications do I need?
To work as a professional youth worker you need at minimum a BA (Hons degree) certified by the National Youth Agency (NYA). Training can also be taken at a postgraduate level for those with a degree in a subject other than youth work.
Youth worker qualifications that have been approved by the NYA are supported by the JNC (Joint Negotiating Committee) for community and youth workers which also regulates the pay scale and conditions for youth workers.
Courses vary in length and can be part time or full time but they all require field work placements to be successfully completed. Individuals without formal qualifications may still be eligible to embark on an undergraduate degree course providing they have relevant experience in youth work (usually through voluntary work) and have the necessary intellect to complete the course.
Also those people already employed in youth work, either in an assisting or supporting role, can take an NVQ/VRQ in levels 2 and 3.
What type of person is suited to youth work?
In order to impress recruiters you need to show evidence of the following:
That you are committed to young people and understand the various factors which affect their lives
To be able to provide reliable support to youngsters in times of stress and to be able to act with integrity
A good team player as well as being able to operate on your own
Formal communication skills to be able to make presentations, apply for funding and write reports
Excellent communicative skills and the ability to establish good relationships with young people
To be patient, tolerant and flexible
Adventurous and willing to try new things
Able to treat young people’s concerns with tact and diplomacy whilst being aware of confidentiality
An understanding of the NYA’s Ethical Conduct in Youth Work document
Salary and conditions
As a professional youth worker you could expect to start at around £22,000 but with more experience you could achieve up to £34,000 per annum. Wages for local authority youth service managers can be higher than £35,000. Many voluntary organisations offer fixed term positions and may be dependent on external funding.
The hours may include some evening and weekend work and include travel during the day to various locations depending on where the activities are taking place. You can sometimes feel overworked and stressed, especially when dealing with disaffected youngsters.
If you care about young people and are looking for more motivation at work, then a career as a youth worker is well worth considering.