Key skills for youth workers
May 25, 2023

Key skills for youth workers


Have you heard of youth workers? Who are they?  Compared to more established professions, youth work is a relatively new and interesting field. While the term may be better known in European Union countries, many people in the Eastern Partnership region may not even know that such a profession exists. However, there are many youth workers around the world who are trying to help young people to achieve their life goals, and to change the future of young people – and society at large – for the better. 

Supporting the development of future generations is what makes the profession of youth worker so important for all of society. Therefore, understanding the skills required of youth workers is critical to ensuring that their efforts to engage and support young people are effective and successful.

One of the popular toolkits for youth workers, the “Youth work competence Portfolio” developed by the Council of Europe, suggests several key competences (skills, knowledge and attitudes) for youth workers. From this toolkit, it is clear that effective communication, psychological, empathy, project management, and other skills are essential for youth workers. In today’s digital age, it is also essential for youth workers to have technological knowledge and skills to work with the basic functions of computers and smart devices. Digital literacy is an important skill that enables youth workers to communicate effectively, access information, and perform various tasks necessary for their work. Another important skill highlighted by scholars is a capacity for conflict resolution, as youth workers may encounter youth from diverse backgrounds during their work and it is especially important that they are able to reduce or avoid conflict between groups. (Gorsky, 2021) 

My own career as a youth worker began three years ago, and since then I have gained experience working with young people using non-formal education tools. In my opinion, the most important skill for youth workers is active and honest listening, because when youth workers actively listen to young people, they can better understand their perspectives, needs, and concerns. This shows that youth workers respect and care about young people’s opinions, which helps them to build more trusting and supportive relationships with the work group. Moreover, this skill is important for youth workers to avoid misunderstandings and miscommunication, which in most cases are the main causes of ineffective work. We should also mention that active and honest listening should go hand in hand with empathy.

Another essential skill is critical thinking, because especially in the societies of the Eastern Partnership that have emerged from totalitarian states, this skill was less developed in past generations. Now, in order to help young people to become active citizens, youth workers must first and foremost have critical thinking skills themselves. By using critical thinking, youth workers can understand the needs of young people more effectively and develop appropriate interventions to support their beneficiaries. Using their critical thinking skills, youth workers can encourage young people to be more creative and innovate, to think outside the box and find new approaches to solve their problems. 

Youth workers play a key role in empowering young people to become active citizens, develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, promote social justice, and address the challenges that communities face. To achieve this goal, youth workers must have many different skills, but as we can see, the skills of active and honest listening and critical thinking are among the most important.

References:

  1. Council of Europe. (2021). Youth work competence. Council of Europe. Retrieved from https://www.coe.int/en/web/youth-portfolio/youth-work-competence#{%229802689%22:[]} 
  2. Salto-Youth. (2018). Training of youth workers: TOYW [PDF document]. Retrieved from https://www.salto-youth.net/downloads/toolbox/toolbox-tool_download-file-1494/Manual%20TOYW%20EN%20Online.pdf 
  3. Emily Gorsky (February 18, 2021) Skills needed to be a youth worker. Retrieved from https://www.opencolleges.edu.au/careers/blog/skills-needed-be-youth-worker 



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