Amy – Youth Worker
I became interested in youth work when volunteering at my village youth centre when I was 18. I studied psychology and when I finished, applied for a job as a part time youth worker. I undertook the introductory youth work training and I decided that youth work was something that I wanted to make a career of.
A full time post as a senior youth support worker came up and I got the job, working with excluded young people during the day and on a street team at night. After time I got promoted to Area Youth Worker with my own centre and staff team to manage. Devon County Council is also putting me through an MA in youth and community work to gain my professional JNC qualification.
The best thing about my job is definitely the young people! They can be challenging but are never boring and always have a lot to say. Encouraging young people to have an opinion and to get their voices heard is what makes this job unique. Youth Workers are not there to tell young people what they should think but to create a space where young people can have conversations and do activities through which they can explore and learn about the world. I also like the creativity involved in thinking of new ways to engage young people. Having variety in my job is important, - every day is different.
A typical day will involve face to face work with young people. This might be working in a generic youth club session in the evening, running an after school group for young women, getting together with a group of young people to create some peer mentoring workshops, doing a sexual health drop in or going rock climbing! I might also do some admin in the office which could be planning sessions, ordering equipment, preparing a workshop or writing reports. I am responsible for the management of the building and it’s health and safety, so I might carry out some checks for this. Usually some young people will also pop into the centre to get a trip form or find out what’s happening that night or just to have a chat about something. I also work with many partners. For example, last week I had meetings with the local councillor, Connexions, the participation team, our local Police Community Support Officers and the headteacher at a school. There is often work to do with local residents, bridging gaps and creating opportunities.
Apart from the regular face to face sessions there is unlikely to be a set routine, so you need to be motivated, flexible and pretty well organised. You will also have to work evenings and some weekends so you need to be prepared for this.
You also need to be an advocate for young people and it can sometimes feel like you are a lone voice amongst talk of “hoodies and yobs”. You need to have good communication skills and be able to adapt them to all sorts of situations.
Working with a range of young people, including those deemed as vulnerable and with different needs can be challenging at times. You need to be able to not take things personally and understand that for some young people youth work is one of the only positive things in their lives, even if they don’t always show it!