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Consortium to boost youth work training announced at Commonwealth conference

10 March 2016

Academic institutions from across the Commonwealth have agreed a partnership to increase access to youth work education and training globally. The Commonwealth Youth Work Qualifications Consortium was formed during the Commonwealth Conference on Youth Work, which ended today in Pretoria, South Africa. 

Thousands of people who work with young persons, particularly those in small and developing countries, will be offered the opportunity to gain professional qualifications as a result of the formation of the consortium, which will function as a network of leading institutions engaged in the education and training of youth workers and policy-makers.

The announcement came at the conclusion of the Commonwealth Conference on Youth Work, which brought together over 250 youth workers, academics, policy makers young people from over 25 countries under the theme, ‘Engaging Young people in Nation Building: The Youth Workers Role’. During the conference, a new Commonwealth Alliance of Youth Work Associations was announced, a Commonwealth Code of Youth Work Ethics was developed, and youth work experts shared innovative research and practice.

Conference delegates welcomed the establishment of the Consortium and called on Commonwealth member countries to develop a “roadmap” to provide professional training and support for youth workers. “Concrete steps to professionalising the youth work sector should revolve strongly around adequate youth work education and training,” they said in a joint message.

The Commonwealth Youth Work Qualifications Consortium (CYWQC) will advance qualifications in youth work, commencing with a Bachelor’s Degree in Youth Development Work that will be made available to universities and higher learning bodies around the world via an Open Education Resource. The initial members include the University of South Africa, the University of Guyana, the Open University of Sri Lanka, Victoria University (Australia), and the Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development (India).

The Consortium is an enterprise of the Commonwealth Secretariat, the University of West Indies and the Commonwealth of Learning (COL). The degree was developed by the University of the West Indies in 2012 with support from the Commonwealth Secretariat. COL is adapting the degree for online delivery and to allow recognition of the degree across borders.

The need to enhance youth work education and training comes as many Commonwealth countries are experiencing a bulge in their youth population, and the potential opportunities and risks related to large populations are young people are increasingly recognised.

Dr Nigel Gravesend, Registrar of the University of Guyana, said: “We are extremely committed to participating in the Consortium. We are doing so against a backdrop where a significant percentage of our population is young, and we feel we have a responsibility to ensure that youth workers are properly trained. Our involvement in the Consortium is an excellent opportunity to advance the professionalisation of the youth work sector in Guyana. We look forward to sharing our perspectives and experiences, so that the whole process can be enriching for all concerned.”

Katherine Ellis, Director of Youth at the Commonwealth Secretariat, stated: “This Consortium will support higher education institutions across the Commonwealth to create or upgrade youth work qualifications, and create collaborations for research, and sharing of good practice, case studies and tools from the field. This collection of knowledge will be a rich and constantly renewed resource of material on youth work education and training. It will be underpinned by evidence and rights-based youth work principles that will ensure global relevance and responsiveness to the needs and rights of young people.”

Dr Joel Warricam, Director of Academic Programming at the University of West Indies’ Open Campus in Barbados, shared his vision for the Consortium: “We would love to see exchanges where students are moving between institutions, to gain experience, and to see how youth work is delivered in different countries. The UWI is committed to providing access to youth work qualifications, because we understand the need for trained and skilled professionals.”

The Commonwealth Secretariat has supported the professionalisation of youth work for 40 years, and spearheaded the Commonwealth Diploma in Youth Development Work that has been delivered by over 30 academic institutions for many years, and formed the basis for the new Bachelor’s degree.

The Commonwealth Conference on Youth Work was hosted by the Government of the Republic of South Africa in partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat, University of South Africa and the National Youth Development Agency. During the conference, the theme for Commonwealth Youth Work Week 2016, between 7-13 November, was also announced as “Empowering young people through sport and creative arts".

One of the delegates, Francis Kapapa of the Zambia Youth Workers’ Association, said: “The conference was very helpful. It gave me insight into who a youth worker really is, and how you can network and work with other associations that do similar things. I’m particularly happy about the formation of the Alliance and the Consortium. I think we stand a greater chance to push forward and professionalise the sector.”

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