The youth work sector, made up of full-time practitioners and volunteers who work with young people, has been growing in size over recent decades. These committed professionals are youth champions, working tirelessly to guide and support adolescents and young adults, giving them encouragement and helping them to build skills.
Despite their efforts, youth workers are often unheralded, working in difficult circumstances and with very few resources. As young people are confronted with an extensive list of challenges, including marginalisation and unemployment, we must recognise and build the capacity of the youth work sector to help young people grow and contribute to society and nation building.
For more than 40 years, the Commonwealth, through the Commonwealth Youth Programme, has been a global leader in the development of youth work as a skilled profession. We promote the professionalisation of youth development work by facilitating education and training. We celebrate good practice through our Commonwealth Youth Worker Awards and Youth Work Week, which showcase the achievements of the sector.
The Commonwealth Diploma in Youth Development Work has been delivered for four decades through more than 30 universities and academic institutions. More recently, we have supported the University of the West Indies to create a Bachelor’s Degree in Youth Development Work, to be delivered across the Commonwealth.
We facilitated the creation of youth worker associations in several member countries, so that ideas and best practices can be shared. We also convened a Commonwealth Conference on Education and Training of Youth Workers, the first of its kind.
The Commonwealth has raised the profile of youth development work and the difference it makes in the lives of young Commonwealth citizens across the world. Governments now acknowledge the vital importance of a professional youth work sector in national youth policies and legislation.
Over the years, thousands of people have graduated with a Commonwealth Diploma in Youth Development Work. These qualified professionals have gone on to support tens of thousands of young people. Many now hold senior positions in government, where they continue to develop and deliver policies and programmes to support young people.