Is youth work languishing?
in the shadow of inferior frameworks of professionalism
This past year we have spent hundreds of hours working with and supporting youth workers in the pursuit of professionalism. We have helped them with paperwork, organisational frameworks and staff development. We have helped individuals and groups to align with agreed industry values. We have provided research to organisations which shows what "professionalism" in youth work looks like. For the most part it felt like we were watering down youth work to fit into the little glass jar that others outside our industry say professionalism is!
Many extremely qualified youth workers and academics have written an ever expanding library of research on the topic of our sector professionalising. We admirer these writers for having the vision to start the discussion about professionalism and we believe most of them have severely missed the mark.
By using other unrelated fields such as the medical, legal and finance sectors which have very different philosophical and theoretical frameworks as a benchmark is an affront to much of the work done by youth workers. When we look to groups like nursing we see a push for recognition with limited discussion about clientele. When we look at social work we see the same. Much of the literature shows a clear push for recognition without bringing the needs of clients along. This does not sit well with many youth workers.
One of the reasons we have found professionalism so hard to implement is the difficulty of centrality. We don't have a central definition and code of ethics in Australia and we have a number of different approaches and frameworks which guide our field. It is this vitality which we should be looking to develop in our quest for professionalism not just aiming to become another cookie cutter "profession"
For more of our thoughts on this see our blog post.