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Developing youth work talent

16th September 2021 by Steve Anderton, Lead Youth Worker at The Hive, Wirral Youth Zone

I’ve been a youth worker for several years and in that time I’ve developed an instinctive understanding for how best to support young people based on the situations I have experienced beforehand. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with this, I felt that I could be and do better for the young people I was working with.

I decided to study for the Level 3 Youth Work Diploma offered by the Talent Academy, OnSide’s learning and development hub, as I felt it would give me the opportunity to develop and learn more about my craft – something I’m extremely passionate about.

It couldn’t have come at a more important time, as I’ve seen first-hand how difficult Covid has been for many young people. I thought the diploma would give me the knowledge and confidence to be the best youth worker I could be, and help me to better guide young people to reach their full potential – and I wasn’t wrong!

The diploma has made me a more confident, assured youth worker. It reassured me of the knowledge I had and opened my eyes, helping me see the bigger picture. It highlighted things I hadn’t considered before and has sparked a real sense of curiosity around what I do and how I work. There are so many things I have learned as a result of taking part, but these are the main three lessons that I’m still applying in my day to day work.

  1. Engage on their terms.

Every young person is unique, so in order to develop long-term meaningful relationships built on trust and understanding, it’s crucial to engage and interact on their terms. By taking part in the diploma, I have learnt to trust my instincts, but to also understand the nuances behind the decision-making process which has given me greater confidence.

  1. Learn from others.

There are 14 Youth Zones in the OnSide Network, all filled with talented youth workers with a wealth of knowledge. By sharing experiences and hearing from other youth workers, I learnt the importance of those small details that make a huge difference to the young people that access Youth Zones.

  1. There’s power in a young person’s voice.

Young people need to have meaningful opportunities to use their voice on the issues that impact them and their communities. A young person’s experience can be enhanced by having more opportunities to have a say on what they want to get involved in, and to be educated on topics they care about. One way of doing this is to encourage young people to  lead on social impact projects.

I’m extremely passionate about youth work. Youth Zones are safe spaces, staffed by youth workers who care and are there to listen. But it’s so much more than this. Youth Zones and youth workers have the power to support and guide young people to reach their full potential. Whether that’s inspiring someone to be the next great innovator, or supporting them to have the confidence to make new friends and vital social connections.

Young people have had an unimaginably difficult time during Covid and continue to face many challenges.

Access to trained, professional adults that they can lean on helps to build stronger, better communities for the future.

The diploma helped me to see this and more. The opportunity to learn and complete it will be something I will always be grateful for and will form the foundations of my youth work career going forward.