A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.
Whether you think it is a good thing or not, it’s important to think about the purpose and value of such an organisation, and have your say. This will probably be the only opportunity for some time to come for youth work to have some external funding to explore establishing our own ‘Institute’.
Most other ‘professions’ have a sector-led body that regulates standards and seeks to ensure good practice in the sector – post-compulsory learning has the Institute for Learning, there is an Institute for Careers Advice, and teaching and nursing have their own bodies. For youth work, these functions are spread across a range of organisations, though not necessarily co-ordinated, and not necessarily directly informed by the voices of youth workers.
In England, for example, NYA, through its Education Training Standards Committee sets the requirements for professional qualification in youth work, on behalf of the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) for Youth & Community Workers, while National Occupational Standards are approved through LSIS, our sector skills body. But no organisation has responsibility for ensuring that individual youth workers adhere to a specific set of professional ethics or behaviour, and only employers are able to remove people from youth work practice – and then only in their own organisation.
We also have no requirements to update our professional development as youth workers – once youth workers have completed their degree level JNC qualification, there is no need for them to undertake any further training, even if they continue to practice for 40 years.
Another gap for youth work is reliable information about the scale of the workforce, and the level of skills within it, as we have never had funding to produce the right kind of labour marker information. Wouldn’t it be helpful if we knew with a degree of certainty how many professionally and pre-professionally qualified youth workers were currently practising – and more about the age, gender and race profile of the workforce, across all youth work employers? That could be really helpful in planning training provision and helping employers recruit the right people.
The role of the Institute
The proposal for consultation is that the Institute (a working title, which could definitely be improved!) is set up as a co-operative, run by its members for its members. Members would be youth workers, with and without professionally qualifications, and would benefit from a set of professional standards, and approved CPD opportunities. Obviously there would need to be a charge for membership, and youth workers would have to feel it is a useful way to spend their hard earned cash.
I certainly think it could be really useful to the profession of youth work, and I’d hate us to miss the opportunity to increase our status as a profession because not enough of us responded to the consultation. So please, go to the consultation and answer the survey.
Our sector is currently artificially divided on the basis of who employs us – statutory/voluntary, public/private, targeted or open access, making it harder to get a clear voice for what we do best – work with young people to enable them to develop their skills and confidence. Squabbles amongst youth organisations keep getting in the way of promoting good youth work wherever it happens – maybe, just maybe a Youth Work Institute, led by youth workers could contribute to keeping youth work as a key part of young people’s lives?
Regional Youth Work Unit @ Learning South West