Network of Regional Youth Work Units England blog

A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.

Does youth work need an Institute?

conferenceThis week, the Chief Executive Officer of Youth Focus West Midlands delves into the debate surrounding the establishment of an Institute for Youth Work…

Does youth work need an Insitute? I pondered this question as I drove to the University of Gloucestershire this week for the Role of the Institute for Youth Work Conference.

I took up my second full-time youth and community post in Gloucestershire back in 1986 – 27 years ago! I have to admit there was something very familiar about driving to a youth work conference in the county where I spent so many years working; remembering the various conferences I attended over the years and spending quality time with my colleagues and peers discussing and debating the issues we were facing in the world of youth work at that time.

This occasion proved to be no different, although it has to be said that the opportunity for youth workers to get together to discuss and share thoughts and ideas about youth work are somewhat rarer these days.

For me, this is one of the positive aspects that belonging to an Institute for youth work offers – enabling workers to share best practice and strengthen what has become a fragmented and disparate profession.

An Institute also offers a focus for youth work, something that feels more important now than ever before.

Conference debates

The event was attended by over 100 youth work practitioners and managers from a range of settings and backgrounds all of whom had an interest in the quality of youth work opportunities available to young people.

I am grateful to the NYA for putting up the funding to not only make the conference happen but for also agreeing to fund the development of an Institute in the first instance.

It has long been said that we need such an organisation but as soon as we got into the debate the issues of ownership, governance, licensing, and rules of engagement reared their head and we stumbled at the first hurdle.

Those issues haven’t gone away and there was much lively debate covering ethics, CPD, policy, governance and membership. Many of those issues still need resolution but the debate was both healthy and useful.

speechCan we afford to not have an Institute?

My own view is that we can no longer afford to not have an Institute for youth work. I think the profession is weaker as a result of not having an Institute, as the sector does not have a strong national voice to speak on its behalf. I wonder if the same devastation that has swept across the sector nationally would have happened if the Institute had been in place?

I would urge people to engage in the debate and support the formation of the Institute. There is plenty of space and opportunity for people to get involved and help shape this new organisation.

A website is currently under development and a number of ‘working groups’ are now in place to help take forward the various strands of the Institute, and delegates were invited to get involved, particularly with the working groups.

Launch arrangements are in place – including a register of interest to be initiated in July.  Information regarding this register of interest will be available and a number of Regional Youth Work Units have indicated they will help be part of disseminating this information to their members.

If you would like to know more, get involved, comment or register an interest, information can be found at or on LinkedIn – An Institute of Youth Work.

Finally a huge thankyou to the University of Gloucestershire for hosting this event and in particular Simon Gillings for ‘making it happen’!

Ruth Rickman- Williams – Youth Focus West Midlands


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