How to Become a Youth Worker

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Do you want to make a positive difference to the lives of children and young people? Could you use your skills and life experience to help a child or a young person to see the light at the end of the tunnel? As a Youth Worker, you could offer guidance and support to the next generation to help them reach their full potential.

What do they do?

Youth Workers support, motivate and encourage young people aged between 11 and 25 years old – helping to give them a voice and a place in society. They usually work with people who are going through particularly difficult situations, such as bullying, discrimination, family issues, involvement in crime, and/or substance abuse. Being involved in these situations can cause them to feel cast adrift from society, making it less likely to embrace all that it has to offer; which is where Youth Workers often step in. A child or a young person who is having a tough time may find it difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel and find a way forward. But Youth Workers help them to look beyond where they are at present, towards a brighter, more positive future – re-engaging them in society and the community.

A Youth Workers main responsibilities on a day to day basis include:

  • Speaking to children and young people to identify what their issues are.
  • Exploring family backgrounds and gathering information.
  • Documenting progress and information related to the child or young person you are helping.
  • Organising and running meetings and community events for children and young people.
  • Recognising when legal action is required and making the right referrals.
  • Counselling a child or young person, and checking on their wellbeing.

As a Youth Worker you might work in a youth club, community or religious centre.

What skills do I need?

The right person will:

  • Be keen to make a difference to the lives of children and young people.
  • Have an ability to relate to and empathise with different generations Be kind, compassionate and non-judgemental.
  • Have an ability to form relationships .
  • Be able to motivate and encourage others.
  • Be reliable, trustworthy and discrete.

What will I love about the job?

hands and feet in circle
  • Making a difference to children and young people by helping them to turn their lives around and shape a more positive future for themselves and others.
  • Following children and families on their journeys and seeing their progress.

What are the challenges?

  • Seeing, working with, and hearing about unpleasant situations that people you are helping are going through can be difficult and upsetting. It requires great resilience, but some can find great reward in helping others move through these situations.
  • Working with children or young people who present challenging behaviour. Whilst you will receive full training on how to appropriately manage difficult behaviour, it can still be a daunting experience at times.

How much will I earn?

As a Youth Support Worker, you could earn up to £25,000, whilst professional Youth Workers usually earn upwards of £30,000, depending on experience.

Are there opportunities to progress?

Some professional Youth Workers continue on to become Youth Service Managers, who can earn up to £40,000.

How do I get started?

If you would like to become a professional Youth Worker, there are a few different routes you can take.

Complete an undergraduate Degree

The most direct route to becoming a professional Youth Worker if you don’t have any previous experience or qualifications is to complete an undergraduate degree in youth work or youth studies – one that is recognised by the National Youth Agency (NYA). This will usually take three years full time.

You’ll also need to try and gain some experience alongside your studies if you want to increase your chances of applying for professional youth work roles when you graduate i.e. by volunteering at a local youth club or organisation. Once qualified, you could work at a local youth club, community centre or religious centre running activities or drop in services where in addition to your training, you’ll also need to have good business sense as you’ll often be managing budgets and applying for grants in order to fund these activities and services.

It’s important to remember that whilst degree courses do cost, there is often help available in the form or grants, loans and bursaries, depending on your individual circumstances. It’s best to contact each course provider directly to find out what your options might be. Sadly, it’s worth pointing out that frustratingly, Government funded postgraduate loans currently have an age cut off of 60. Something we simply cannot understand.

If you already have a degree in another subject, then you may be able to apply for a postgraduate degree instead, which is usually one year full time.

Consider becoming a Youth Support Worker

If you don’t want to complete a degree but you’re really keen to work in the youth support industry, then you could always think about becoming a Youth Support Worker, where you will support more experienced Youth Workers with setting children and young people on the right path.

In order to do this, you’ll need to take on a voluntary or apprentice position in a youth club, community or religious centre whilst working towards a Level 3 Certificate in Youth Work Practice. It’s best to contact your local youth clubs, community or religious centres to find out whether they are taking on volunteers or apprentices.

Once you’ve completed the course, you can then apply for a job as a Youth Support Worker and continue to learn on the job. Or alternatively, if you already have skills, experience and qualifications relevant to youth work e.g. in careers guidance, probation or teaching then you can apply for a Youth Worker Support position straight away.

Study part-time whilst working as a Youth Support Worker to achieve professional Youth Worker status

If you become a Youth Support Worker and still want to aim to reach professional Youth Worker status, you’ll still need to complete a degree, but it is possible to do this on a part-time basis alongside your job.

Are you passionate about helping disadvantaged young people overcome their struggles and integrate into society? Do you have a story about your own experiences as a youth? Or are you currently working as a Youth Worker? Whatever your story, we’d love to hear from you at [email protected].

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