I don’t think I’m being weary in pursuing further the dialogue about degrees and qualifications in youth work. In doing so I’m drawing upon comments posted by Jean Spence, Mick O’Brien and Maureen Rodgers, the latter speaking from across the oceans in Australia.
Jean asks us to remember what is easily forgotten in the instrumental climate so dominant nowadays.
And of course there is always the point that the degree is not just about the particular qualification, not just about youth work, but also about the process of learning and becoming educated for which, hopefully, the achievement of the degree is not a full stop but a beginning.
Her profound point is supported by a contribution on Facebook only a few minutes ago.
I’m in my second year studying Youth and Community Work at the moment (or will be in September, I’m having to take a year out because of my mental health problems). I volunteer with my local youth service so I know how close we’re teetering on the edge of destruction right now. I don’t know if there will be a youth service here when I graduate and it’s scary and so disheartening. But I figure the skills I get through my degree and placements will be worthwhile regardless of what exact job role I end up in. I’m a completely different person from when I started studying; so much more confident and happier in myself. There are so many things I’ve learnt that I use in my entire life, not just in worth. It’s not only about getting a certificate, it’s about who it’s made me as a person. It’s about the process, not just the result (something we should know very well in youth work!) Whatever happens, I KNOW I won’t regret this degree.
Mick reflecting on the difficult situation facing youth work and youth workers argues powerfully for the importance of a degree.
A youth degree is also a standard . A professional standard . Which in my view will serve people well . Yes the process of getting it is a journey well worth taking and one that can and should be continued. We in Ireland are now on the process of establishing The Irish Youth Worker Association. A degree in youth work will be the standard for membership. There is no question, that the values and principles of youth work in Ireland have been eroded over the past number of years by savage funding cuts by the state . By the state wanting to control the outcomes of the work. By the increase in justice projects . By short term work contracts for workers.all this has happened without any real engagement of the youth work sector . It is our hope in IYWA to engage with the state around these issues. We need to professionalize we need to be seen as professionals . Youth workers need a professional standard . Youth workers need a degree .
His insistence on the necessity of professionalisation is echoed in Maureen’s concerns.
Amazing how we are struggling with the same issues! Youth Work is a unique, valuable and highy skilled profession, unlike any other. It’s often undermined and devalued by governments, other professions, some training institutions, policy writers and even some people who claim to do youth work without a professional framework.
But there’s hope. There are many of us who understand its profound positive impact on young people and our communities. Many passionate people advocating for the integrity and longevity of youth work into the future. People who understand that our integrity in underpinned by ethics, research, evidence and qualifications.
Whatever my faults I don’t think I can be accused of being anti-theoretical or anti-intellectual, of being against ‘forever thinking’, as Castoriadis put it. And yet I am cautious about the closed shop of a graduate profession. I won’t elaborate as I can always do that, if it’s useful, in the future. For now I’ll simply pose a few questions.
Given the diversity of those involved in youth work [volunteers, part-timers, full-timers with diplomas and NVQs, full-timers with degrees etc] does the creation of an elite workforce divide rather than strengthen?
Where is the evidence that the graduate professional’s practice is ‘better’ [whatever that might mean] than that of the non-graduate?
To what extent does the emergence of the Irish Youth Workers Association parallel the formation recently of the Institute of Youth Work in England? In England certainly a past history of professional associations was overtaken by the rise of trade union organisation e.g. from the Community and Youth Service Association to the Community and Youth Workers Union? Was the emphasis on our common bond as workers rather than professionals misguided?
Isn’t the apparent professionalisation of universal humanist values [social justice, equality, diversity and so on] and universally needed communication and relationship skills; the implication that these are the property of a unique profession, at the very least problematic? Is critical pedagogy the possession of particular professional groups or is it a way of understanding the world relevant to all walks of life?
I’ll shut up now and ask that you don’t necessarily jump to conclusions about what might be my answers. Looking forward to reactions both here and on Facebook. I don’t think this is navel-gazing.