Youth workers work with young people aged 13-19, encouraging them, providing them with support and helping them to achieve their potential. The primary focus of youth work is on the personal, social, cultural and educational development of young people in the UK.
The majority of youth work projects are designed to help disaffected youths with social problems, who live in communities that are affected by crime, unemployment and anti-social behaviour. Youth workers may also, on occasion, provide help, support and guidance to people as young as 11, and as old as 25.
These guys are mainly employed in places such as council-run community centres, youth centres, religious youth groups, schools, colleges and other educational institutions. They also commonly work with young offenders in teams which are organised and monitored by the Youth Justice Board for England & Wales (YJB).
Youth workers may work directly with individuals on their personal issues, assessing their needs, listening to their problems, establishing goals, counselling them and supporting them through tough times.
They may also get involved with organising community-based projects, which provide young people with avenues to express themselves, raise concerns and discuss their aspirations.
It’s all about empowering youths and giving them opportunities that they would otherwise miss out on. These programmes of support enable participants to make choices about their present and future options, regarding education, health, careers, drugs, sex and social situations.
Youth work also has a more administrative side to it, and youth workers are regularly required to draft reports and maintain administrative records, which detail the progress of the young people in their caseload.
Salary & benefits
Starting salaries for youth workers range between £20,000 and £25,000, while more experienced professionals earn around £25,000 to £35,000.
Once you’ve progressed into a managerial role, you could earn up to £50,000.
Employees living in London may receive an additional living allowance to compensate for the higher cost of living.
Youth workers tend to put in around 35-40 hours on a weekly basis, although you will need to be flexible with your working hours to meet the demands of service users.
For example, youth workers employed by educational institutions will work in accordance with the school or college’s timetabled hours, whereas professionals working in community centres may work in the evening and at weekends.
To become a youth worker, it is essential that you attain a youth work degree, which is accredited by the National Youth Agency (NYA). Candidates with degrees in other subjects need to complete an NYA-approved postgraduate training programme.
Both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes include a significant component of practical, ‘on-the-job’ training.
Training & progression
Training is done ‘on-the-job’ under the supervision of experienced colleagues. However, additional advanced training courses are available through organisations, such as the National Youth Agency (NYA) and Youth Link Scotland.
As you progress through your career, you may decide to branch out into different areas of social care, such as youth offender management, community education or social work.