In the latest of our Is Youth Work Dead series, we hear the story of how one organisation in Scotland has developed over the years, adapting to different conditions along the way. As always, we would love to hear what is happening in your local area, even if it is sadly nothing! Let’s keep the debate going in the comments below and on Facebook, and continue to send submissions for the website to firstname.lastname@example.org.
yipworld, based in Cumnock, East Ayrshire, Scotland, established in the year 2000 when internet access was something of a luxury, is a youth work based provision of formal and informal activities providing a wide range of activities. Confidence building, new experiences, traditional methods playing pool; quizzes etc. From a small youth work based ‘youth club’ young people came in their droves to enjoy access to the internet on 12 amazing PCs – Bebo was the most popular – no personal mobile phones in those days and yet only 18 years ago.
We are proud of our ability to engage with people in rural communities and proudly introduced the first mobile internet van fully kitted with satellite and benches/seating in the T.A.R.D.I.S. (training and recreation delivered in situ) for young people living in areas with no internet access at all. This encompassed with games and fun was an amazing resource and we loved every minute but short-lived when internet became the norm. We turned the page and came up with something different – we are good at that!
Now, our numbers have declined but we still have the relationship with young people –they are now the parents of a new generation of children but these children are ‘cushioned’ by the fear of exploitation via the internet and yes –some with only confidence to chat online and play games with their friends. But as someone said “they’ve taken the lid off and can’t put it back on” therefore we, as youth work providers have to adapt to the new generation.
But, not all is lost, it’s how we have to change to engage young people. They want more now but don’t know what they want (nothing different really from two decades ago). It is up to youth workers to be more creative, listen, read and yes – sometimes you have to upskill to be able to learn a new talent.
yipworld saw an average attendance of 200 young people per night x four nights per week –now we have an average of 40. However, it’s not the numbers game – this is quality youth work; the chance to talk to young people on a one to one basis; contribute to their personal development and help them understand the importance of active citizenship. We also understand youth work has a broad spectrum –sport and youth work; art and youth work; drama and youth work; technology and youth work –the curriculum for excellence in Scotland is a wonderful example of how it is delivered in schools.
I have been working in youth work for 30 years and a Chief Executive of this wonderful organisation with youth work at the heart of everything we do –but we are also smart enough to adapt to the ever-changing culture of young people. There is no point in looking back to the ‘good old days’ of traditional youth work (was it really?). It isalready there and will never go away, it’s just that now it is encompassed in a variety of activities.
Some would argue there is too much pressure on awards and qualifications, and I would agree with that – ad-hoc activities just for the enjoyment make those happy memories for young people.