Representatives from the regional centres of the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) have proposed establishing a professional association for youth development workers in the Commonwealth, as part of a wider strategy to ensure young people are empowered to contribute to development and democracy.
Youth workers, academics (including representatives from universities from each region of the Commonwealth), youth leaders and CYP staff representatives from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific, met in London from 22 to 24 August 2011 to discuss the way forward for improving and strengthening youth development work in the Commonwealth.
The meeting focused on proposals for a Commonwealth-wide professional youth workers association, pan-Commonwealth standards for youth worker education and training, and the expansion of research into youth work, through the continuation of a new look Commonwealth youth development journal.
The Interim Director of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Youth Affairs Division, Henry Charles, said the Commonwealth should be facilitating the existence of a professional environment and culture for youth development workers.
The professional association will link youth development workers from different parts of the Commonwealth to share information and best practices.
“Our efforts should be concentrated on enhancing the transformational capacity of the youth movement, empowering young people to shape a sustainable society; the role of the youth worker is to facilitate that empowerment,” said Mr Charles.
CYP engages and empowers young people (aged 15-29) to enhance their contribution to development, through partnerships with young people, governments and other key stakeholders.
The CYP’s head office is in London with regional centres in the Commonwealth’s regions: Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific.
One of CYP’s mandates is to contribute to the professionalisation of youth development work, by strengthening the capacity of youth workers in the Commonwealth.
“We have learnt a lot from 35 years of experience in offering youth worker training across the Commonwealth, and we will now be focusing on other aspects of the youth work sector that the Commonwealth is best placed to do and deliver,” said Youth Affairs Division Programme Officer Layne Robinson.
The regional representatives also discussed the future of the youth work training offered by CYP through its diploma course.
In the Caribbean the course has met with success with its regional CYP centre moving towards a degree course, while the Africa and the Pacific centres are negotiating to outsource the course to partner institutions.
Regional representatives recommended that the training be moved online so it can be more accessible to youth development workers around the Commonwealth. The meeting agreed greater use of e-learning facilities and a pilot version of the Commonwealth Youth Development Diploma will be available through e-learning facilities as early as October 2011. CYP plans to use e-learning facilities to provide more support for youth workers in their communities.
The meeting also acknowledged that training should also be available outside of tertiary courses to allow youth workers to enhance their skills without necessarily getting a formal qualification.