THINKING SERIOUSLY ABOUT YOUTH WORK And how to prepare people to do it

Introduction

It is never too late to think seriously about youth work in Europe.1 The two European Youth Work Conventions in Belgium (Ghent 2010, Brussels 2015)2 introduced speci c dynamics in this sector: while the rst event focused on the diversity of

youth work, the second explored existing common ground. Both Declarations (see Appendix 1 and 2) mirror the re ections from these two conventions. In the pres- ent publication, which addresses the varied topics discussed, we want to deepen discussions on youth work in Europe and its relationship to other policy elds.

In Europe today, particularly at local and regional level, there are thousands of youth work initiatives that are meaningful to children and young people, and which are as relevant to their lives as formal education. Hundreds of thousands of youth workers are estimated to be committed to this work and thousands of youth work initiatives and projects exist. But we still do not know exactly how many youth workers do this work, and across how many youth work initiatives. We know exactly the number of schools of various types and how many teachers educate young people. We also know a lot about the professional profiles of teachers and how they are educated and trained. But in the youth field we still lack a common definition and understanding of what youth work is and what a youth worker is. A Spanish youth researcher once answered the question “What about youth work in Spain?” thus: “there is no youth work in our country since young people aren’t allowed to work under the age of 18”. But there is of course work with and for young people in Spain – out-of-school, in their leisure time, on a voluntary basis, and drawing on participatory principles – provided by volunteers or paid professionals.

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