How to become a Youth Worker – Where to start?

Becoming a Youth Worker

There are a number of ways to become a youth worker:

Apprenticeships in Youth Work

An apprenticeship is a way for young people and adult learners to earn while they learn in a real job, gaining a youth support worker level 2 or 3 certificate in youth work practice and real experience of working with young people. As an employer hiring an apprentice provides you with the opportunity to develop workers’ talents and gain a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce.

Many youth work providers are now employing youth support worker apprenticeships. Find out more about getting onto a youth work apprenticeship.

Youth Support Worker

Most people enter youth work as either a volunteer or a paid worker/apprentice and are typically called youth support workers.

Youth support workers is a youth worker who has achieved a level 2 or 3 qualification or a diploma in youth work practice. These are qualifications for people who work with young people using youth work principles and practice.  The level 2 is for 16+ age group and the level 3 is aimed at the 18+ age group.

Professional Youth Worker

If you have gained a qualification that enables access to degree level learning, you can move on to gain a professional level youth work qualification such as:

  • BA (Hons): three years full time (and part time equivalent) – level 6
  • PG Dip: one year full time (and part time equivalent) – level 7
  • MA: one year (and part time equivalent) – level 7
  • Graduate Diploma: two years full time – level 6

These courses are offered by universities or colleges of higher education. Your course will need to be ‘JNC recognised’ and validated by the National Youth Agency for you to gain the status of qualified youth worker.

JNC recognition ensures your degree reflects the current demands of the role and that the course delivers a suitable level of work experience too. You cannot change the status of your degree later so think carefully before embarking on a course of study which is not JNC recognised.

The courses reflect different occupational needs, and have a range of titles, including:
• youth and community
• community and youth studies
• youth and theology
• informal and community education.

Whilst most universities will have entry requirements, all institutions offering youth and community courses will welcome applications from those without academic qualifications providing they have relevant experience and interest in working with young people. Contact the institution for details.

We suggest that you try to get as much experience as possible in youth clubs, projects and groups as life experiences and being able to chat with young people is a very important aspect of being a youth worker. Many of the organisations on this site encourage local young people to make the step up to being a Youth Leader,Peer Mentor or Volunteer or to help out in clubs, where they can get more opportunities to learn what is expected of a youth worker. YMCA North Tyneside have a number of Youth Leaders and Volunteers in our various projects and in the past several many young people have used this as a stepping stone onto college and university or to jobs with YMCA North Tyneside or other similar organisations.

But what is Youth Work and its purpose?

Youth work focuses on personal and social development – the skills and attributes of young people – rather than to ‘fix a problem’. It is an educational process that engages with young people in a curriculum that deepens a young person’s understanding of themselves, their community and the world in which they live and supports them to proactively bring about positive changes.

Therefore youth work needs to be (and be seen to be) transformational, harnessing skills of young people not fulfilled by formal education.

  • Where youth work provides a safe place to be creative
  • Providing and developing a social network and friendships
  • With a trusted adult (who knows what is needed)

Youth work is a distinct educational process adapted across a variety of settings to support a young person’s personal, social and educational development

  • To explore their values, beliefs, ideas and issues
  • To enable them to develop their voice, influence and place in society
  • To acquire a set of practical or technical skills and competencies, to realise their full potential

Principles of Youth Work

The principles of youth work are supported by reflective practice and peer education, establishing and maintaining relationships with young people and community groups

  • Knowledge of how young people develop during adolescence and appropriate support
  • Trusted relationships and voluntary engagement of young people
  • Understanding how to establish boundaries, challenging behaviour and de-escalate conflict
  • The importance of safeguarding in providing a safe environment for young people

Youth work values

Youth work is underpinned by a clear set of values. These include:

  • Young people choosing to take part.
  • Utilising young people’s view of the world.
  • Treating young people with respect.
  • Seeking to develop young people’s skills and attitudes rather than remedy ‘problem behaviours’.
  • Helping young people develop stronger relationships and collective identities.
  • Respecting and valuing differences.
  • Promoting the voice of young people.

Being a youth worker is a great job, it is not just playing football or pool with young people or going on trips. It can be pretty difficult and you need to be able to work evenings and weekends and the pay is not too great either BUT it is brilliant to be able to help young people so if you are interested get in touch!!

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