What is Youth Work?
Youth work in brief
- Youth work helps young people learn about themselves, others and society through activities that combine enjoyment, challenge, learning and achievement. It is a developmental process that starts in places and at times when young people themselves are ready to engage, learn and make use of it. The relationship between youth worker and young person is central to this process.
- Youth work happens in youth centres, schools and colleges, parks, streets and shopping precincts – wherever young people gather. Youth work methods include support for individuals, work with small groups and learning through experience.
- Youth work offers young people safe spaces to explore their identity, experience decision-making, increase their confidence, develop inter-personal skills and think through the consequences of their actions. This leads to better informed choices, changes in activity and improved outcomes for young people.
- Youth work contributes to the government’s vision for young people – that they should enjoy happy, healthy and safe teenage years that prepare them well for adult life and enable them to reach their full potential. From January 2007, local authorities have been required to secure ‘positive activities’, including youth work, for young people in their area. These activities should be shaped by what young people say they want, and should help put them on the ‘path to success’.
So what is youth work?
- Youth work helps young people learn about themselves, others and society, through informal educational activities which combine enjoyment, challenge and learning.
- Youth workers work primarily with young people aged between 13 and 19, but may in some cases extend this to younger age groups and those aged up to 24. Their work seeks to promote young people’s personal and social development and enable them to have a voice, influence and place in their communities and society as a whole.
- Youth work is underpinned by a clear set of values. These include young people choosing to take part; starting with young people’s view of the world; treating young people with respect; seeking to develop young people’s skills and attitudes rather than remedy ‘problem behaviours’; helping young people develop stronger relationships and collective identities; respecting and valuing differences; and promoting the voice of young people. This is considered in more detail in the National Youth Agency statement of principals and values, Ethical Conduct in Youth Work.
This definition can be found in the NYA Guide to Youth Work and Youth Services - this is free to download.
You may also find the NYA Glossary of Terms useful.
Want to work in youth work?
Find out what youth work is, what it involves and how to get qualfified. This section also gives an overview of career prospects and related areas of work.