Community Development Worker

The Job and What's Involved

As a community development worker, you would help people to improve the quality of life in their local area.

You would work closely with individuals, families and groups in socially or financially deprived areas. You would provide leadership, set goals and bring local people together to make changes and tackle social inequality, as well as helping people develop the skills to eventually run their own community groups.

Your work would typically include:

  • Finding out about the community's needs, problems and barriers.
  • Making sure that local people have their say.
  • Developing new opportunities and monitoring existing projects.
  • Helping to raise public awareness about community issues.
  • Encouraging local people to take action.
  • Building links with other groups and agencies.
  • Raising funds.
  • Recruiting and training staff and volunteers.
  • Planning meetings and events.
  • Managing budgets.
  • Mediating between groups who disagree on local issues.
  • Doing any necessary administrative work.

You might address a wide range of issues in the community, such as improving local facilities, leisure and housing, and reducing anti-social behaviour. Alternatively, your job might be project-based to tackle one particular issue.

In a typical full-time job you would work around 37 hours a week, although part-time work is common. You should be prepared to be flexible, as you would often be expected to work occasional unsocial evening hours.

You would have an office base but would spend much of your time out and about in the community, for example visiting local people and groups, and attending meetings.

Starting salaries can be between £15,000 and £20,000 a year. With more experience, salaries are usually around £20,000 to £30,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

You will need practical experience of working in the community or voluntary sector. You could get this experience in a range of ways, for example:

Volunteering in a local community group or charity or,

Having a background in a related career such as housing, regeneration, social work, youth work or teaching.

A very common way in is to volunteer in local projects, such as community or youth groups, tenants' associations or women's groups. To get involved, ask around your local community or search at do-it.org to find out about opportunities in your area.

Education and Training

You don't need any qualifications to start as a volunteer, as you will receive some training on the job and may get the chance to take an introductory part-time college course in community work. Your experience and training as a volunteer could then help you move into paid work.

Alternatively, you could start by taking a course in community development at college or university. Part-time and full-time courses from introductory to postgraduate level are widely available all over the UK. Most courses include work placements to help you gain experience.

A foundation degree, BTEC HNC/HND or degree in community development may give you an advantage when looking for paid work. To get on to some courses you may need A levels or an Access to Higher Education qualification. You may also be accepted without the usual qualifications, as long as you have relevant experience and the potential to succeed on the course.

For any job where you would be working or volunteering with children or vulnerable adults, you will need to pass background checks from the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) .

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Your employer will provide you with some initial training when you start, followed by ongoing in-service training to help you develop in areas such as project management or managing volunteers.

You may get the chance to work towards recognised qualifications, such as:

NVQ levels 2, 3 and 4 in Community Development Work.

National Open College Network (NOCN) Certificates at levels 1, 2 and 3 in Community Development.

NOCN Certificates at levels 2 and 3 in Managing Voluntary and Community Organisations.

With experience, you could study part-time for a postgraduate qualification in community development work or a related area. This may give you an advantage when applying for senior positions.

Projects, communities and issues vary so much that you will constantly need to update your skills and develop new areas of knowledge throughout your career.

Many organisations for community development and social inclusion (such as Federation for Community Development Learning and Community Development Exchange) run short courses, research projects, seminars and conferences. These can all help your professional development and provide networking opportunities.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A community development worker:

  • The ability to build good relationships and earn people's trust and respect.
  • Excellent communication and listening skills.
  • The ability to relate to people from all backgrounds.
  • A tactful and sensitive approach.
  • Patience and perseverance, for coping with challenges and setbacks.
  • A non-judgemental attitude.
  • Initiative, enthusiasm and motivation.
  • A creative approach to problem solving.
  • Good organisation, planning and administrative skills.
  • Skills in researching, analysing statistics and writing reports.
  • A good understanding of social and community issues.
  • Commitment to equality and diversity.

Your Long Term Prospects

For career development, you could choose to specialise in a particular issue, or to broaden your experience and work with different issues or groups. Alternatively, you could move into management or policy making.

Freelance work as a trainer or consultant is also possible.

Get Further Information

Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK),
5th Floor, St. Andrew's House,
18-20 St. Andrew Street, London EC4A 3AY
Information and Advice Service: 0300 303 1877
Website: www.lluk.org

Volunteering England
Website: www.volunteering.org.uk

Volunteer Development Agency
Website: www.volunteering-ni.org

Homes and Communities Agency
(Skills and Knowledge)
Careers website: www.askwhatif.co.uk

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