Youth & Community Worker

The Job and What's Involved

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, Wales and Northern Ireland, youth workers usually work with young people aged between 13 and 19 years (or in some cases, from 5 to 25 years). In Scotland, community learning and development workers are responsible for work with both young people and adults.

Youth and Community Workers' duties can vary enormously, according to the needs and circumstances of the people they work with. In youth work, 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 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, 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.

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

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 including city centres, cafes, amusement arcades and parks.

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.

Starting salaries may be around £19,000 a year for qualified Youth and Community Workers. A driving licence may be a distinct advantage.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Youth and Community Workers are employed by local authorities, the Connexions service, youth offending teams, voluntary organisations, faith groups and schools. Local authorities in England employ around 4,000 full-time youth and community workers and it is estimated that around 7,000 are employed full time by voluntary organisations. In addition, many more work part time.

Youth and Community Worker skills are in demand, and opportunities are increasing.

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.

Successful applicants are required to undergo a Criminal Records Bureau check.

Education and Training

Entry requirements vary. Those seeking to become Professional Youth and Community Workers usually need to have experience of paid or voluntary youth work. They also need to show that they have the ability to complete an academic course of study. To demonstrate this it is an advantage, although not essential, to have A levels/H grades, or equivalent qualifications.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Professional Youth and Community Workers usually have a qualification in youth work validated by the National Youth Agency (NYA), (or Youth Council for Northern Ireland), and recognised by the JNC for Youth and Community Workers. These qualifications can include:

  • Diploma of Higher Education - two years full time, or part time equivalent. Some diplomas are employment-based.
  • Foundation degree - two years full time, or part time equivalent. Some Foundation degrees are employment-based.
  • BA Honours degree - three years full time, or part time equivalent.
  • Postgraduate certificate/diploma - one year full time, or part time equivalent.
  • Masters degree - one year full time, or part time equivalent.
  • Some of these qualifications are available via distance learning.

In Scotland, the minimum qualification for Professionally Qualified status is a degree validated by Community Education Validation and Endorsement (CeVe) or its successor, the Standards Council for Community Learning and Development in Scotland. Validated qualifications include three-year degrees and postgraduate certificates or diplomas.

Newly-qualified Youth and Community Workers train on the job 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.

It is possible to enter this job as a youth support worker and no academic qualifications are required for this junior position.

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

  • NVQ in Youth Work (at Levels 2 and 3)
  • ABC Certificate in Youth Work (Level 2)
  • ABC Diploma in Youth Work (Level 3)
  • National Open College Network (NOCN) Certificate in Youth Work (Level 3)
  • City & Guilds Certificate in Youth Work (Levels 2 and 3)
  • City & Guilds Certificate in Supporting Youth Work (Levels 2 and 3)
  • Open University (OU) Certificate in Working with Young People.

It is possible to train as a youth support worker via an Apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

In Scotland, qualifications include SVQ's in Youth Work and Community Development Work (Levels 2 and 3), and an HNC Working with Communities.

Candidates should contact the appropriate national bodies for further details on qualifications (see Get Further information below).

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

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 - sometimes there are not enough resources to give young people all the help they need.
  • 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.

Your Long Term Prospects

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

In England, some youth and community workers take further training to become Connexions personal advisers.

Get Further Information

Youth Council for Northern Ireland,
Forestview, Purdys Lane,
Belfast BT8 7AR
Tel: (028) 9064 3882
Website: www.ycni.org

Youth Action Northern Ireland,
Hampton, Glenmachan Park,
Belfast BT4 2PJ
Tel: (028) 9076 0067
Website: www.youthaction.org

Department for Children, Education,
Lifelong Learning and Skills,
Welsh Assembly Government,
Cathays Park, Cardiff CF10 3NQ
Tel: 0845 010 3300
Website: new.wales.gov.uk

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

YouthLink Scotland,
Rosebery House, 9 Haymarket Terrace,
Edinburgh EH12 5EZ
Tel: 0131 313 2488
Website: www.youthlink.co.uk

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