Drop this profession obsession
Iâ€™m getting fed up with the different schemes proposed to develop youth work and create a new professional status for workers.
First the Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC) is piloting its youth professional status. If successful, this would be a new award for any graduate working within young peopleâ€™s services – not just youth workers. To gain the award, candidates would need to demonstrate their understanding of the CWDCâ€™s skills development framework.
Confusingly, this professional status is not considered a qualification or a new role, but â€œa symbol of an individual’s management potential.â€ It simply shows workers can adhere to the CWDC Framework – already contested as a watered-down set of values.
Then there is the rebranding of qualified youth workers as “youth work professionals” as proposed by the Confederation of Heads of Young People’s Services (Chyps). This is a new title for any full-time youth worker with a Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) recognised qualification. A lot of workers like myself would automatically inherit this title because of our training.
The idea here is to distinguish youth work professionals from other professionals working with young people. Chyps are also supporting the youth professional status, so we could potentially end up with youth work professionals who have youth professional status.
Despite the jargon, I do understand the temptation for the change. Itâ€™s currently difficult to know which workers are trained to which level, and what that training entitles them to do (or not to do). David Wright, chief executive of Chyps is right in saying that: ” To the outside world, ‘youth worker’ is a generic term. But within the sector there is a variety of different disciplines.”
I quite like the idea of being classed as a â€œprofessionalâ€ rather than simply a worker. The title appeals to my ego a bit and might hold some weight with other agencies and organisations.
The problem is there are many, many voluntary organisations with unqualified workers doing an amazing job with limited resources. Iâ€™m a big advocate of training and education, but many agencies simply cannot afford to train their workers. This does not make them less professional.
One of the best workers I ever met was an elderly gentleman who volunteered at a youth club. He has little understanding of integrated services, nor was he ever likely to gain a JNC validated qualification, but he held the respect of those young people in a way I can only hope for. He was in every aspect professional.
So while I agree that we do need some clarification in youth work training and qualification, lets drop this obsession with being â€œprofessionalâ€. If we concentrate on actually working with young people and doing the best for them, then maybe we can earn the right to be called professional.
You can view all my Youth Work Now articles here.