"For North Macedonia I hope they realise how important youth work is and recognise it fully as a profession and for the UK I hope it gets much more recognition and more funding. One thing I have noticed that slowly youth work goes more digital than it first was but that seems like a right step to grasp the minds of young people in the modern society. Ideally, I would like youth work to be more accessible to people of all parts of the world despite their economic status and geographical predisposition, this would have an enormous impact on a young person’s mind and will lead to a positive development."
- Dime Elenov, North Macedonia
Visions for Youth Work
The following is the description of youth work as adopted by the Council of Europe member states in The Recommendation CM/REC(2017)4, otherwise known as the Recommendation on Youth Work:
“Youth work is a broad term covering a wide variety of activities of a social, cultural, educational, environmental and/or political nature by, with and for young people, in groups or individually. Youth work is delivered by paid and volunteer youth workers and is based on non-formal and informal learning processes focused on young people and on voluntary participation. Youth work is quintessentially a social practice, working with young people and the societies in which they live, facilitating young people’s active participation and inclusion in their communities and in decision making.”
Empowerment was a strong focal word to describe the work of the vision of youth work with young people. The work should be planned and purposeful, there is a focus on the personal and social development of young people, who are encouraged to develop new attitudes, skills and knowledge. Young people are supported to reach their potential, to work towards improving the quality of life for themselves as well as to their communities. In youth work, young people should gain autonomy, have the opportunity to realise their own ideas.
Much of the youth work undertaken should include broadening the horizons of the young people they work with, promoting acceptance and understanding of others regardless of diversity of background and an individuals identity.
Youth work in the vision is learning focused, some visions even see it as extracurricular education – complementary to formal education.
Youth work is identified as being voluntary and participative. The visions sees a responsibility in engaging with young people in the decision making processes, both in the running of the organisation and in the day to day interactions of the youth workers with the young people.
Youth workers should see their work with young people as part of a process to foster young people’ s active involvement in society, young people becoming active citizens, part of which is working towards a sustainable civic society, promoting social innovations and working for the future of our environment.
"It is providing them with healthy and safe opportunities for leisure that they can enjoy as well as safe and supportive environment, which is really important because it makes them more confident with themselves and more engaged with what they do. For example, they have classes in cooking, dancing, photography, robotics, ceramics and other useful things as well as different events where the young people can take part. The youth centre is also giving them the chance to implement their ideas individually or together with others."
- Marijana Gavrilova, North Macedonia
Anyone considering a career in youth work should identify the kind of organisation they may eventually want to work with – for example, a youth centre, a housing association or a young offenders' organisation – and volunteer or work part-time there. If volunteering is only available on a short term basis then build up a portfolio of experience by spending time with a range of similar organisations. The youth work course is very practical, so relevant experience will equip you with crucial understanding and creative ideas to show off at the interview stage. A distinct vision of where you want your career to go will also show your commitment to youth work.
The Local Grassroots Vision vs European Romanticism
In the reality check about what youth work really does, it has to be said there is too much posturing, pontificating and romanticising at a European level precisely because there is no reality check. Most youth work is about winning leisure space for young people to hang around, have a bit of fun, stay out of trouble and, hopefully, do something purposeful. And there is nothing wrong with that. Very little youth work is actually about promoting human rights, serving as a laboratory for democracy, strengthening employability, or creating social inclusion – though it may have those effects as by-products.A lot of ‘youth workers’ are untrained volunteers and let us be very thankful for them. They establish voluntary relationships with young people and generally provide, if only through that, new experiences for them – youth workers, unlike teachers, employers or parents have little formal authority over young people. But they do not do, or deliver the big visions for youth work that are proclaimed at the European level, at least the the level suggested by the European institutions. In Finland in February 2019 it was suggested that, through education and training (first of all, learning how to maximise practical work with young people, then understanding ‘youth’ more conceptually and the framework of youth policy in which young people are growing up, and then – perhaps at Master’s level – grasping the place of youth work in youth policy and the contribution youth work can make in relation to policy areas such as formal education, vocational training and employment, health, housing and criminal justice), youth work could contribute more significantly to DOING, then DEVELOPING, and the DESIGNING youth work – but locally based youth work is likely to have much strategic influence at a European level, generally because many of those who DO have such strategic influence have never actually done any grounded youth work. Most have come through the ‘career’ route of youth organisation membership and activism and this does distort the way in which ‘European youth work’ is defined and advocated massively.
"[Youth Work] needs to appeal to the 15+ category of youth – much harder to engage than younger kids. This can be a hard task, specific events that are fun & engaging & that give teenagers some responsibility seem to work best. Amongst this category, it also appears that more females are willing to get involved than males, posing the question of how a gender parity can be reached. To tackle this imbalance it is important to try to understand why this is the case, is it that youth centre activities appeal more to ‘female interests’; is it simply that young women are more willing to give up their free time to learn/ volunteer; or that young males have less youth worker role models.."