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Want to work in youth work?

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 typically with young people aged between 11 and 25. 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 reaches so many young people because it is delivered through a wide range of different organisations and in a variety of different settings. The Youth Work sector includes local authority provision and voluntary/community sector organisations and groups. VCS organisations and groups operate at national, regional and very local levels, and include uniformed and faith-based groups as well as community and interest focused groups.

Local authorities, of which there are some 150 in England, are responsible for ensuring that youth work is provided in their area. Increasingly this is managed through Children and Young People’s Service, Integrated Youth Services, or its equivalent, working in partnership with a complex network of other youth work providers, community groups and voluntary organisations.

For detailed information on youth work read The NYA Guide to Youth Work and Youth Services

For more information about youth work in the voluntary sector visit NCVYS.

NCVYS (National Council for Voluntary Youth Services) is a diverse network of over 280 national organisations and regional and local networks that work with and for young people. They work with voluntary and community organisations to build thriving communities and sustainable networks that help all young people achieve their potential.

Career Prospects

Youth work skills are in great demand, and opportunities for JNC recognised qualified youth workers are expanding. In addition to employment within local authority youth services, the opportunities for employment in other sectors continue to increase. Youth workers are found working in other local authority departments such as leisure, arts and housing, health authorities, youth justice teams, and a range of voluntary organisations. A look at job advertisements in Children and Young People Now magazine frequently show vacancies in generic youth work, Integrated Youth Support Services, Connexions, sports development, youth action, drugs projects, youth offending teams, social services, health work and community development.

Greater attention is also being paid to the progression of more experienced staff. Local authority youth services, Connexions partnerships and other services for young people all offer opportunities to move into management or into more specialised posts, and a range of training programmes are now available to enhance the management skills of both new and experienced managers.

For a detailed picture of youth work today read The NYA Guide to Youth Work and Youth Services.

Levels of working as a youth worker

In the field of youth work you often hear reference to The Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) for Youth and Community Workers. This is the body that sets the national framework used to grade and pay youth work jobs. The JNC agrees the salary scales and other terms and conditions of service. 

There are two pay ranges within the JNC framework:

  • Youth Support Worker
  • Professional Youth worker 

The JNC recognise youth and community workers’ qualifications which have been professionally approved by the Education Training Standards (ETS) Committee of the National Youth Agency (NYA). The NYA endorse Youth Support Worker qualifications and have a process of professional validation for Higher Education programmes.

Gaining a qualification that is either endorsed or validated by the NYA and recognised by the JNC ensures it is fit for purpose; developing youth work practitioners that can meet the needs of young people and employers in the youth work field. List of courses

Many people work with young people without JNC recognised qualifications, often with related qualifications or extensive experience of working with young people. This is often seen within voluntary and community organisations. The work is very valuable and contributes positively to the lives of young people. Hoever gaining qualifications specifically in youth work enables a worker to explore the theory behind youth work, the ethos, principles and practice. It encourages the development of an individual practitioner and allows them to access levels within the JNC framework.

Personal Suitability for Youth Work

Youth work is more than a set of skills and knowledge. To work effectively professional practitioners should:

  • Recognise the importance of integrity in all personal and social interactions with young people
  • Have a commitment to the ethos of continuous professional development to improve practice as a reflective practitioner.
  • Be committed to working collaboratively with partners to ensure excellent provision for young people.

Criminal records checks

All youth workers must be prepared to give information about any criminal record they might have, even if it might normally be considered 'spent'. The Criminal Records Bureau will, on request from employers, check the records of anyone applying to work with children and young people, whether on a paid or voluntary basis. But having a record does not mean automatic disqualification, indeed some of the best youth workers have a chequered past, and they draw on their experiences and what they have learnt from them in their work. Employers using the CRB are required to have a policy about employing ex-offenders, taking into account factors such as the nature of the offence and how long ago it was committed. Further information is available from the

Related areas of work

There are other ways to get trained and work with young people these include become a Connexions Personal Adviser, Youth Justice Worker, Education Welfare Officer , Learning Mentor, Teacher/Teaching assistant, Social Worker and play/sports workers.  For mor information on these other roles visit Prospects.