News Archive

Report of International Conference Proffessionalisation in Youth Work

Posted on Friday, May 24, 2002

Youth work on the move across the globe

A recent International Conference organised by the Maltese Association of Youth (MAY) workers revealed that youth work is developing fast throughout Europe and beyond. It is doing so in ways that we will recognised from a UK perspective and is based on similar values. There are even specialist youth worker unions and associations developing in several different countries and the UK system of training endorsement is being seen increasingly as a useful model. General Secretary Doug Nicholls presented a paper entitled The Republic of Youth to the Conference and this can be found on the Union’s website. CYWU agreed to help MAY all we can in its development and undertook to advertise through the pages the various calls for links and exchanges made by delegates to the Conference.

(Speeches and contributions and contacts from the Conference will shortly be placed on CYWU’s website.)


There is a long tradition of youth work in Malta, organised in the voluntary sector primarily by the Catholic Church, the two main political parties. Now this sector is diversifying with new voluntary and some small scale council employment. In 1993 the first professional youth work training course was established at the University of Malta and the structure of this course would be very familiar to UK youth workers. As a result a professional cadre of qualified staff has been trained with no full time professionalised service to go into. But as the Minister said at this important Conference “If the culture for the engagement of professional workers is there, funds will be found.”

MAY is therefore in the process of campaigning for state funding and professionalisation in the voluntary sector. Whether MAY will become a trade union or remain a professional association is an issue under lively debate.

Speaking of some of the trends in Maltese youth work the leader of the youth work training course Tony Azzopardi gave a background to the 5 year part time course and the ethos underpinning the development of youth work on the island. There was no endorsement system for the course as here, but there was robust external examination. He explained how the course was committed to long term sustainable, focussed and well planned research and how the development of a national youth policy must be matched by committed individuals in a committed infrastructure of providing agencies.

There was a need to publish much of the excellent research on young people and youth work in Malta and CYWU offered to assist with this wherever it could.

You can contact the Maltese Association of Youth workers on [email protected]  Our Maltese colleagues are keen to create exchange programmes.

Romano Cuschieri Chair of MAY described the situation in Malta as “exciting” and felt that the short history of MAY had started to make a real difference to how youth work was now seen in many circles as being on a par with teaching and deserving proper professional development.  The Maltese press picked up very vigorously on the Conference and the concerns of the islands youth workers.

Mette Bram from Denmark the first Conference speaker asserted the role of youth workers as professionals who had to “have mastery of dialogue and democratic processes” empowering young people to participate in “constructive co operation”. Mette has studied youth and youth work throughout Europe and can be contacted on [email protected]

European co operation and youth work networks and resources

Bernard Abrignani from INJEP in France picked up this theme in his presentation where he reminded delegates that the French word for youth worker was animmateur and this related back to the Latin for soul “anima”. Youth work was about expressing the soul of individuals and groups and achieving the best of latent talents.  In his useful overview of youth work developments in Europe Bernard described the different affinities of the service, for example in France it has always been aligned with sport and recreation and in Germany with family welfare and social work models. He also demonstrated how there was an increasing identity and common value base developing as Youth Services became professionalised.

In become more professional Bernard described many of the traits that he felt good youth workers must have. He described these as having a ‘good nose’ and being like a cameleon. A cameleon’s head never moves as it focuses on its objective and clambers across shifting and difficult terrain. Its eyes are always on the move. It takes careful steps. It is a tolerant and social animal. It has a long tail for balance and it protects its tail. It does not believe you get anything constructive out of a fight.

In particular Bernard highlighted the work of SALTO which is developing European wide training kits and support resources for youth workers. You can find details of their materials on SALTO’s newletter now circulated to 25,000 youth workers in Europe aims to share good practice and new ideas and new resource opportunities and to facilitate exchanges.

Bernard can be contacted on [email protected]

Youth Work in Egypt

Tamer Shalaby of Egyptian National Youth Council reports that of the 70 million people in Egypt 16 million live in Cairo and a large percentage of these are young people between 16 and 25 years of age. So far there is no developed professional practice called youth work. However, there is a thriving culture of Youth Centres, often associated with Sport. There is a new Ministry for Youth and this department is seeking to accelerate the development of a professional infrastructure for youth work. Consequently representatives of the department are keen to travel abroad and share good practice particularly within Europe.

Youth Centres in Egypt are supported but not managed by the state and they are staffed by Youth Supervisors with an activity based approach, and the development of education and health awareness through sport. Often the centres will have libraries but not computers and the younger generation in Egypt, apart from being avid Beatles fans, are curious about the internet.

Youth supervisors in the Centres are graduates of the four year course at the University Faculty of sports education and they usually specialise in one sport and psychology.

Tamer and the Egyptian National Council are very hopeful that they will make better and closer contacts with British youth workers and that they will attend CYWU Conference next year. Tamer reminds us that English is the second language in Egypt and that there are many historic ties and like any good youth centre is itself multicultural. Tamer looks forward to hearing from CYWU members keen to make links and exchanges. Contact him on [email protected] or [email protected].

Norway – the need to unionise

Henrik Slipher  and Solveig Irene Engelsen report on many issues in Norway similar to our own. There is no Minister for Youth as yet and there is an urgent need for statutory funding to ensure that local authorities work to a level playing field. With the mixture of youth resources goes the mixture of terms and conditions and the absence of national collective bargaining for youth workers who are mainly employed by the local councils. There is also a lack of official policy documentation for young people and no national youth policy that workers were aware of. Workers are organised in the section of the general local authorities union in a special section for children and youth workers. There is also an Association for Workers in Youth and Leisure Clubs, an equivalent perhaps of UK Youth.  There is no National Youth Agency. There is as yet no national qualification course for youth workers. There is a further education course for childrens’ workers, but certificate holders exit at 19 and this is considered too young to do the demanding youth work expected of more experienced practitioners.

Given the new European Youth Policy workers in Norway will be pressing for an organised and professional structure for their work.

Henrik is a youth advice and information work and is keen to make contact with colleagues from Britain. Contact him on [email protected]

Solveig is a youth arts worker and can be contacted on [email protected]

Estonia moves ahead with youth work

Estonia is a small country of about 1.5 million people. It has been an independent nation for ten years and for ten years there has been the development of a new youth work programme. A youth policy has developed and much youth related activity takes place in Cultural Houses. This has grown out of an Estonian tradition of appointing a Director of Hobbies in every school. It seems this professional group have their own association. Youth centres independent of schools and political organisations are beginning to appear. There are about ten of them with paid youth workers, so the profession is completely new.  The government wants new legislation to create a youth service. The Estonian Youth Work Centre is pushing for this. The Ministry of Education is pressing for more youth related funding also.

The perennial problem of unstable short term projects funded by local councils is evident in Estonia too. There are now 15 Estonian Youth Organisations with over 500 members with stable funding.

Heidi Klamp is a former Director of Hobbies who has now moved into more independent youth work by establishing a Youth Union that is drawing down its own resources as a voluntary body.   Heidi believes that it is really important for the young people in her organisation to get a chance to go abroad, not previously part of their tradition. She is therefore very keen to build links with CYWU members who may be interested in Estonian exchanges. There is a possibility too of considering job shadowing with British workers under Action 5 of European funding.

Contact Heidi direct on [email protected]

Sweden – a new specialist trade union

Youth workers in Sweden are currently debating whether to establish a specialist youth workers union to give greater prominence to their work and campaign for systematic training and funding and recognised qualifications. More news of this we hope by CYWU National Conference next year. IN the meantime contact any of the Swedish workers at the Conference for links and exchanges:

Anna Olvenius [email protected]

Thomas Hermansson [email protected]

Majlis Blomqvist [email protected]

Pernilla Alkeskog [email protected]

Lithuania develops youth service

Much like Estonia, Lithuania is developing its new youth service and youth work initiatives. Rytis Laurinavicius would be pleased to hear from you to develop exchanges. Rytis represents the Agency of International Youth Co Operation: [email protected]

Dutch voluntary sector knows no bounds

Colleagues from the voluntary church sector in Holland play a dynamic part in the generally good infrastructure of youth work support in that country. Often it is local authority projects that make the international links. Members seeking contact with the Dutch voluntary sector are encouraged to contact Viona Bremmer on [email protected] or Marion Niewenhuizen on [email protected]

In order to back up CYWU member’s international exchange work, the Union is currently seeking ways of providing support packs on legislation and regulations and health and safety in exchange work to different countries.

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