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Youth and Community Worker

Youth and community workers help young people to learn, grow and develop, and encourage them to play a positive role in the community.

Youth workers usually work with young people aged between 13 and 19 years (or in some cases, from 11 to 25 years). The job may involve tasks such as:

  • organising enjoyable activities, such as sports, art or drama
  • supporting young people to develop ideas and make changes in their lives
  • organising outings and breaks to places like outward bound and activity centres
  • supporting young people in organising their own activities and projects
  • raising awareness about issues such as health and politics
  • supporting young people in developing skills such as literacy and numeracy
  • working with specific groups such as young people who are homeless.

Youth workers usually work in teams, and liaise with other professionals.

They usually work 35 to 37 hours a week, normally including evenings and weekends. The work environment may be a youth club, community centre, school, village hall, faith centre (such as a church or mosque) or Connexions centre.

Salaries may start at around £20,000 a year for professionally qualified youth and community workers, rising to £36,000 for senior staff.

A youth and community worker should:

  • be able to develop and lead programmes of informal learning
  • be able to relate to young people from a wide range of backgrounds
  • have excellent communication and listening skills
  • enjoy working with young people.

Youth and community workers are employed by local authorities, the Connexions service, youth offending teams, voluntary organisations, faith groups and schools.

Youth work skills are in demand, and opportunities are increasing.

Professional youth workers must have a qualification validated by the National Youth Agency and recognised by the Joint Negotiating Committee for Youth and Community Workers. From 2010 youth work will become a graduate profession and only honours degrees will lead to JNC recognition.

Youth Support Worker qualifications are also available. Students on these courses are generally employed and in youth work and study part-time. It is possible to train as a youth support worker via an Apprenticeship.

Newly-qualified youth and community workers train in the workplace with the support of experienced colleagues.

Qualified youth and community workers may move into managerial posts or specialist work such as working with young offenders.

What is the work like?

Youth and community workers help young people to learn, grow and develop, and encourage them to play a positive role in the community.

In England, youth workers usually work with young people aged between 13 and 19 years (or in some cases, from 11 to 25 years). Youth and community workers' duties can vary, according to the needs and circumstances of the people they work with. The job may involve:

  • organising enjoyable activities such as sports, art or drama, that will increase young people's skills and confidence
  • supporting young people to develop ideas and make changes in their lives
  • organising outings and breaks to places like activity centres
  • supporting young people in organising their own activities and projects
  • raising awareness about issues such as health and politics
  • supporting young people in developing skills such as literacy and numeracy
  • working with specific groups such as young people who are homeless, in care, from ethnic minorities, have disabilities or misuse drugs and alcohol
  • working on projects relating to issues like health awareness, the environment, bullying, truancy, substance misuse or crime
  • supervising part-time and voluntary workers
  • applying for grants and other funding
  • administration and record keeping.

Detached or outreach youth workers identify and engage with young people who do not go to youth centres. They gradually build up links with young people who gather in places like parks, amusement arcades and cafes. They tell them about services available locally, offer counselling and arrange for them to get further support from professional or voluntary workers if necessary.

Youth workers usually work in teams and liaise closely with the police, social workers, teachers, probation officers and other agencies.

Hours and environment

Youth and community workers usually work 35 to 37 hours a week. This is likely to include evening and weekend work. Part-time and voluntary work are common.

The work environment may be a youth club, community centre, school, village hall, faith centre (such as a church or mosque) or Connexions centre. Some staff work on converted buses, bringing young people's services to a number of communities. Detached youth workers work in a range of street settings.

A driving licence may be an advantage.

Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.

  • Salaries may start at around £20,000 a year for professionally qualified youth and community workers
  • With experience, this may rise to around £29,000 a year.
  • The most senior staff may earn up to around £36,000.

Skills and personal qualities

A youth and community worker should:

  • be able to develop and lead programmes of informal learning
  • be able to relate to young people from a wide range of backgrounds
  • have excellent communication and listening skills
  • be able to motivate young people
  • understand the issues, concerns and interests of young people without being patronising
  • be able to earn the trust of others
  • be sincere, patient and tactful
  • be resilient and realistic about other people's problems
  • be confident talking to people both in groups and on a one-to-one basis
  • have good leadership and team working skills
  • be committed and enthusiastic
  • have good organisational skills.

Interests

It is important to:

  • enjoy working with young people
  • be interested in a range of activities that are attractive to young people and could help their personal and social development.

Getting in

Youth and community workers are employed by local authorities, the Connexions service, youth offending teams, voluntary organisations, faith groups and schools.

Youth work skills are in demand and opportunities are increasing. There is a particular demand for ethnic minority youth workers and male youth workers in some areas. In addition there is demand for skills related to management and leadership and IT skills.

Vacancies are advertised in local and national newspapers, at Jobcentre Plus offices and on employers' websites. They may also be advertised in specialist publications such as Young People Now.

Anyone working with young people is expected to have a First Aid certificate and will be checked through the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).

Entry routes

The volunteer route allows someone to gain experience working with young people without making a final commitment to a formal career in this area. It provides the experience and skills needed in youth work. Many organisations provide volunteer placements with inductions and some also cover travel expenses.

Graduate and postgraduate qualifications lead to students becoming professional youth workers. The qualifications must be recognised by the Joint Negotiating Committee for Youth and Community Workers (JNC) in order to be professionally validated. Students combine study at university with work experience and so learn theory alongside the practice of youth work throughout the course.

Full-time, part-time and distance-learning courses are available. Candidates should contact the appropriate national bodies for further details on qualifications.

From 2010, youth work will become a graduate profession and only honours degrees will lead to JNC recognition. Graduates with degrees in subjects other than youth work would be required to complete a postgraduate qualification.

Youth Support Worker qualifications are also available. Several awarding bodies have developed courses which are offered by local colleges in conjunction with local employers. Students on these courses are generally employed in youth work and study part-time, so will be learning and applying that knowledge to their working life.

Training

Newly-qualified youth and community workers train in the workplace with the support of experienced colleagues. Everyone involved in this area of work must undertake child protection training. There may also be opportunities for leadership or management training.

Youth support workers can gain recognition for their skills and experience by working towards qualifications such as:

  • NVQ Level 2 and 3 in youth work
  • ABC Certificate in youth work at Level 2
  • ABC Diploma in youth work at Level 3
  • National Open College Network (NOCN) certificate in youth work at Level 3
  • City & Guilds Certificate in youth work at Levels 2 and 3
  • City & Guilds Certificate in supporting youth work at Levels 2 and 3
  • Open University Certificate in working with young people.

Getting on

Qualified youth and community workers may move into managerial posts or into specialist work, such as working with young offenders.

Some youth and community workers take further training to become Connexions personal advisers.

Further information

National Association of Youth and Community Education Officers. Website: www.nayceo.org.uk

National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS), Third Floor, Lancaster House, 33 Islington High Street, London N1 9LH. 020 7278 1041. Website: www.ncvys.org.uk

National Youth Agency (NYA), Eastgate House, 19-23 Humberstone Road, Leicester LE5 3GJ. 0116 242 7350. Website: www.nya.org.uk

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

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