Youth workers today face tough, ever-increasing demands supporting a population burdened with the multiplying and intensifying challenges of unemployment, the pandemic, conflict and climate change. The secretariat of the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of 54 independent and equal countries, has invited Commonwealth countries to pause for a week to celebrate the achievements of youth workers during Youth Work Week from 2 to 6 November. Patricia Scotland, secretary-general of the Commonwealth, says under the theme ‘Ambitious for Youth Work’, the week is an opportunity to explore strategies to improve support mechanisms for professionals, boosting the impact of their work and recognizes the responsibility youth workers take on and sacrifices they make. She says Over recent months across the Commonwealth, they have witnessed a wave of protests online and on the streets demanding social change and the Commonwealth Secretariat have been listening.
“What we are hearing is that our young people are fearful for their lives and their future and many are reluctant to dream because they regard their employment and education prospects as being grim. We aim to raise awareness of youth work, its’ role during the pandemic, to build partnerships with youth workers associations, develop networking platforms, promote ambition in youth work and advocate for enhanced commitments and investments to empower youth workers,” According to Scotland, the week includes a briefing for high commissioners, youth workers and youth work associations to discuss challenges and developments in the sector; the dissemination of case studies of best practice in the field; and features solutions developed by youth workers. She says it also includes the launch of Youth Work Labs, a platform for the sector to reflect and exchange solutions to specific challenges; the launch of the practitioners’ short course and web series, offering support to youth work associations; and the kick-off of the social media campaign to highlight the contribution of youth work to national development.
Robyn Broadbent, chair at the Commonwealth Alliance of Youth Workers Association in Australia, says it takes a community to nurture young people with youth workers being integral to this contribution and youth work has an essential role in promoting civil society, ensuring young people are not just seen in a future context, but as an investment in the present. She says youth workers make a difference in the lives of all young people, in particular some of the most vulnerable youth in the Commonwealth.
John Tan, vice-chairperson at Commonwealth Alliance of Youth Workers Association in Singapore says in Singapore, they are ambitious for youth work to be formally recognised as a profession and want to see those who choose to invest their lives in helping young people duly affirmed and supported. He says they are not saying youth workers should be seeking validation for and through their work, but rather they want to see an improvement in resources allocated to them as realizing this will inevitably help their nation's youth
Ben Duntoye, chair of the Nigerian Youth Workers’ Association, says youth work provides a new pathway to youth development and offers a professional and expert approach to addressing prevailing youth challenges such as youth unemployment, militancy, kidnapping and related problems. He says youth work supports a youth-to-youth approach and participation and creates a more empowered generation of young people.
“We acknowledge and accord due recognition to the critical role of youth workers and re-emphasize collective Commonwealth commitment to working alongside young people through government and other agencies on action to advance youth inclusion and empowerment. This week, we focus on the ambition and vision for youth work and on youth workers as role models and mentors who guide and educate young people, giving them the confidence and resources to pursue their interests and goals for the future,” says the secretary-general.