So we get to know you a little bit, could you describe your current occupation for me
Carolyn: The Indiana Youth Institute, we are a non-profit agency that exists to serve the youth workers of Indiana and we do that through a variety of programs and services. You could think of them in terms of data & research, direct coaching for agencies and education & training.
Terencia: I am finishing my studies in Non-profit Management and I am currently volunteering in a neighbourhood centre where they serve day care all the way to seniors and they have assistance program, education programs and a food pantry. My next step would be in the fund development sector and consist of setting up budgets to raise funds, a lot of campaigning, auctions and do some grant writing as well and that is where my future is, looking at it at the moment. I will do the story telling – tell the youth story – so that we can get more money, so that they can continue to have the program.
A non-profit agency that exists to serve the youth workers of Indiana
Youth work to me is essentially being empowering the youth in a supporting environment, so that they can grow to be better people when they become adults.
In our network – poywe – we are currently trying to get to a clearer European definition of open youth work and how that links to professionalism. How would you define open youth work in the US context?
Carolyn: We typically look at youth work as anyone that is impacting children– so it´s very broadly defined. We´ll include what you all refer to as open youth work – we would typical call that more after school programming. But it also includes programs that are run by volunteers and others, as well as pre-school education and child care. So it is a very broad field.
Terencia: To add on to that youth work to me is essentially being empowering the youth in a supporting environment, so that they can grow to be better people when they become adults.
Is there any kind of education that you have to have to be a youth worker in Indianapolis?
Carolyn: There isn´t anything required in terms of level of education. As I said a lot of programs are run by volunteers, which may or may not have formal education. Most paid positions within agencies, the staff have minimum a high school diploma, typically they have a bachelors degree and a few may have a masters degree.
A bachelor in youth work?
Terencia: Anything – it could be social work, psychology, non profit management, just to name a few.
Carolyn: There are certain universities that have a youth work program, but you do not get your degree in youth work. It is typically under applied sciences programs. It is still a field that is under development and the education side of that is a work in progress as well.
Is there a wish from the field e.g. the youth workers themselves for more specialised education?
Carolyn: I think that most youth workers are always looking for more education and training. Right now they get that informally through attending conferences. There are several organisations within the state that have come together and have created a youth worker credential, that is intended to increase the value of youth work as well as the quality and competencies of youth work. And there are defined competencies that you must meet in order to achieve that credential. We are now working on trainings that would follow the credential competencies so that if they attend x number of sessions on this topic that would allow them to get the credential.
Please explain a bit more about the credential – where do people have to apply, what do you have to do for it and how can you use it?
Carolyn: It is a speciality credential– you have a bachelor from the university and then on top of that you have a special credential such as this youth work credential or perhaps that you are a licensed social worker with a speciality in youth. You have to apply for it at a private non-for-profit organisation that the coalition, I talked a earlier about, has created for the purpose of dealing with the competencies and the credential. There is a test involved as well as developing your portfolio to document your experience. In the end with the credentials you can show to possible employers your skills and competencies. It exists but currently only around 20 youth workers or so do have it already – it´s just begun.
A youth worker credential, that is intended to increase the value of youth work as well as the quality and competencies of youth work.
There is sort of two purposes: to improve the visibility and value of youth work as well as the quality of those professionals doing youth work.
Terencia, will you apply for that, would you like to have it?
Terencia: I do not have it yet but plan to apply for it – I´d like to call myself a lifelong learner and that definitely applies in the youth work field. So whether its a conference or a webinar or even a certification course, I would like to display what I have learned and I can showcase those skills in the future to wherever I work, wherever I go. Of course in that sense it is interesting to use it for my future career.
Carolyn can you also tell us a bit more about the intentions behind this new credential, why did you feel the need to create it?
Carolyn: There is sort of two purposes: to improve the visibility and value of youth work as well as the quality of those professionals doing youth work. Because youth work is still very broadly defined and encompasses so many groups or practices of working with children it´s hard bringing all of us together and be on the same page. Unfortunately those who work with youth is one of the lower paid professions similar to teachers or social workers. But definitely less organised than teachers or social workers – both of those others have licences and more laws that back up the activities that they are allowed to do. None of this exists regarding youth work.
We have just heard that it is a lower paid profession and struggling for recognition – so what is your motivation to step into that profession Terencia?
Terencia: It is a very good question. Honestly my bachelor was in psychology, I always wanted to help people, I am always a people person. And so I do with a different direction in working in non-profit sector versus working in the middle of health institution. I found I really enjoyed that work. I really like putting a smile on kids faces – I did something good today, I made an impact on someone´s life. That makes me feel like I did something important and that is balancing a lot of other things.
Why did you go in that direction yourself, Carolyn?
Carolyn: My undergraduate degree is in non-profit management and then I went on for my masters in social work and probably the reason for going in that direction has been certainly based in my faith, in terms of serving others. And then to do something that is going to make peoples life better.
You have been here for less than 48 hours now, is there already some first impressions on youth work in Austria?
Carolyn: Challenges of youth work seem to be very similar: pay rates/scales, never enough funding to meet all of the need– those are issues that we also hear daily from the agencies we work with home in Indiana.
Want to learn more about the youth development credential? Download the FAQ youth-development-competency-credential
by Alexandra Beweis (2016)
Alexandra Beweis works as project manager at POYWE . She is also a trainer and facilitator and active in different areas of youth work since 1994.
Videos © poywe/Alexandra Beweis