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Training youth workers for the future

In this week’s blog, Gill Millar looks at youth work qualifications and the future of youth work training.

In a year when most of the news has been pretty dreadful, one positive story is that JNC Employers’ Side have moved away from their proposal to end the Joint Negotiating Committee for Youth and Community Workers, and have expressed their willingness to retain professional recognition for youth work qualifications. In fact they are currently consulting employers to find their views on the current qualification framework and it is particularly important to get a good return rate for this.

The body that is charged with providing guidance and approving new youth work qualifications in England is the National Youth Agency’s Education Training Standards Committee, which consists of representatives from key groups in the youth sector including employers, unions, Institute for Youth Work, training agencies, and Regional Youth Work Units. At the most recent ETS we explored opportunities to review the qualifications offer to make sure that we have clear pathways for people to come into youth work from other areas of work, and to enable people to have their youth work skills recognised in a wider range of settings.

There are many reasons for considering the future directions of youth work training now, including:

  • A more fragmented workforce with fewer youth workers in local authorities and a growing proportion in small voluntary organisations and agencies whose primary purpose is not youth work

  • Challenges to existing courses as a result of a harsher financial climate in Higher Education

  • New job roles in targeted youth support, youth justice, and related sectors which value youth work skills but don’t have clear qualification pathways

  • Government focus on apprenticeships as a key route into skilled employment

  • Opportunities to provide qualifications that lead to roles which require similar skills and knowledge, such as play and community development.

There are a lot of elements to consider if we are to rethink our youth work qualifications framework: – have we got the right qualifications at the right levels? Can we increase the scope of the job roles included without losing the special features of youth work? Are our degree programmes offering similar level of experience and placement hours to those of teaching, social work, and other professions? Can training agencies and the qualifications framework respond to the changing needs of a wider range of employers? Will different qualifications attract different learners with different learning needs?

ETS will be exploring these issues in the next few months, and aims to develop options for consultation early in 2017. Meanwhile, any comments and views will be gratefully received.

Gill Millar, November 2016

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