10.5 Youth workers
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Definition of Youth Workers
A youth worker is a professionally qualified person who works full-time or volunteers in extra-curricular child and youth work. This definition of youth workers is provided on the website 'Youth Work in Austria' (Jugendarbeit in Österreich). In Austria, different terms are used for people working in child and youth work, such as: specialist in open child and youth work (Fachkraft der Offenen Kinder- und Jugendarbeit), youth information worker (JugendinformationsarbeiterIn), youth worker (JugendarbeiterIn, JugendbetreuerIn), youth leader (JugendleiterIn), and child and youth group leader (Kinder- und JugendgruppenleiterIn).
The qualifications required for youth workers differ according to the setting and nature of their respective jobs. The underlying competences are presented in the 'Competence framework for child and youth work' (Kompetenzrahmen für Kinder- und Jugendarbeit). The competence framework for child and youth work systematically presents and describes at different levels how people act competently in their work in extracurricular child and youth work. It is further detailed in Chapter 10.4 under Quality assurance - aufZAQ.
It covers both open youth work as well as children and youth associations in Austria. The Competence Framework is a translation tool from qualifications of child and youth work to the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). The NQF makes qualifications visible and comparable by the European Qualifications Framework across Europe. For people in and outside the field, the framework makes clear what people active in youth work do and what quality standards they have. It stimulates the development of key competences which benefits children and young people and motivates the increase of quality of the range of education. People inside the working field are encouraged to networking, co-operations, development and mutual recognition of education.
The principles of youth work and requirements for receiving federal grants are set by the Federal Youth Promotion Act (Bundes-Jugendförderungsgesetz), in force since 2000.
Nationwide network and website "Health-competent Youth Work" (Gesundheitskompetente Jugendarbeit)
The network "Health-competent Youth Work" was founded in 2016 by the Centre of competence for Open Youth Work (bundesweites Netzwerk Offene Jugendarbeit, bOJA) with the aim of networking, exchange and mutual learning. Professionals from the health and youth work area, from adjacent areas of activity such as child and youth welfare, the school, community work, in labour market policy projects and interested parties exchange in regular meetings on various youth-related health issues with different priorities.
The 'Healthy Youth Work' (Gesunde Jugendarbeit) website, launched by the Centre of competence for Open Youth Work (bOJA) in 2019, is a service platform that provides knowledge, good practice, a calendar of events and information on advanced networks and partner organisations for employees in extracurricular youth work.
There is no statutory training for this profession.
Courses of study at Universities of Applied Sciences
All federal states have universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen), where the course of studies 'social work' is offered on the level of a bachelor and/or master degree. Some offer special courses on social youth work.
- University of Applied Sciences Burgenland (Fachhochschule Burgenland)
- University of Applied Sciences Carinthia (Fachhochschule Kärnten)
- University of Applied Sciences St Pölten, Lower Austria (Fachhochschule St. Pölten, Niederösterreich)
- University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria (Fachhochschule Oberösterreich)
- University of Applied Sciences Salzburg (Fachhochschule Salzburg)
- University of Applied Sciences Joanneum, Styria (Fachhochschule Joanneum, Steiermark)
- MCI - Management Center Innsbruck, Tyrol (MCI - Management Center Innsbruck, Tirol)
- University of Applied Sciences Vorarlberg (Fachhochschule Vorarlberg)
- University of Applied Sciences Campus Wien (Fachhochschule Campus Wien)
Courses and trainings
The required knowledge and skills are often acquired in the context of courses and trainings, for example:
- ifp – Institute for Leisure Education (ifp – Institut für Freizeit für Freizeitpädagogik) (together with the youth leader school of the Viennese Youth association wienXtra): 'Basic course youth work' with a duration of 209 lessons and the 'Advanced course youth work' with a duration of 202 lessons.
- 'Alpenverein-Akademie' of the Österreichischer Alpenverein (Austrian Alpine Association): 'Basic Course: Mountain Experience' with a duration of 52 lessons.
- “Naturfreundejugend” (friends of nature youth) "KiJu-LeiterIN Alpin" (Alpine child and youth leaders) with a duration of 2 weekends.
Furthermore, the ifp offers specially developed courses and trainings for selected areas of youth work. In these courses relevant, current topics are dealt with intensively and comprehensively from both a theoretical and practical perspective for youth work.
Courses at a glance
- Basic course youth work (Grundkurs Jugendarbeit)
- Advanced training youth work (Aufbaulehrgang Jugendarbeit)
- Preparatory course (Vorbereitungslehrgang)
- Short course pedagogy of play (Kurzlehrgang Spielpädagogik)
- Violence prevention (Gewaltprävention)
- Team leadership and social management in youth work (Teamleitung und Sozialmanagement in der Jugendarbeit)
Symposium and education programme
The symposium of the open youth work (bOJA-Fachtagung) is a conference that takes place each year in a different federal state and on changing relevant topics related to youth work.
aufZAQ – Certified quality of non-formal education in youth work (aufZAQ – Zertifizierte AusbildungsQualität für die Kinder – und Jugendarbeit)
aufZAQ is a certification of non-formal education and training courses for people active in youth work, provided by the Department of Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery, the Youth Departments of the Federal States, and the Youth Work Department of the Autonomous Italian Province of Bozen/Bolzano – South Tyrol. aufZAQ has been certifying the quality of trainings since 2003 and has thus been actively contributing to the recognition of non-formal education in the field of youth work. For course participants, the aufZAQ certification is proof of the high quality of educational courses. For employers and institutions of child and youth work, aufZAQ guarantees that the respective course is a high-quality vocational education and training that is strongly oriented towards professional practice. aufZAQ is further detailed in Chapter 10.4.
aufZAQ developed the Competence Framework for Children and Youth Work. This competence model shows how people act competently in their work in children and youth work. It covers both the open youth work and children and youth work in youth organisations. The Competence Framework (Kompetenzrahmen) is a translation tool from qualifications of children and youth work to the Austrian National Qualifications Framework (NQF). In turn, the NQF makes qualifications visible and comparable through the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) across Europe. In particular, the competence framework is part of the aufZAQ certification.
In Austria, youth worker mobility programmes are funded by various sources, including the federal government, the federal provinces, municipalities and the EU's Erasmus+ programme. These programmes aim to improve skills, organisational practices and the overall quality of youth work in Austria and abroad.
At national level, several high-level programmes and institutions offer learning mobility opportunities for youth workers in Austria:
- The Erasmus+ Youth programme (Erasmus+ Jugend) managed by the OeAD provides important opportunities for Austrian youth workers to engage in activities abroad, as emphasised by Erasmus+ Key Action 1. Through various activities, youth workers (Jugendarbeiter/innen) can exchange and network internationally, develop skills, and promote innovative practices. The 'Professional Mobility project line' (Fachkräftemobilitäten) supports projects lasting 2 to 60 days, facilitating skills development and knowledge transfer among youth workers in order to improve the quality of youth work in Europe.
- The Centre of Competence for Professional Open Child and Youth Work (bOJA) supports youth workers through national and international networks (Internationale Mitgliedschaft). As a member of the European Confederation of Youth Clubs (ECYC), bOJA cooperates with European organisations and co-founded the Association for Professional Open Youth Work in Europe (POYWE) to exchange ideas in youth work and participate in joint initiatives related to youth work across Europe.
- The National Youth Council in Austria (Bundesjugendvertretung, BJV) promotes international cooperation among young people, many of whom come from youth organisations. Through the JUUN project (JUUN Projekt), 40 young people aged 18-35, many of whom come from youth organisations and from over 25 countries, the majority from Austria, are connecting and exchanging on issues related to the SDGs. The project aims to create positive change in young people's communities and to promote international partnerships in youth work and participation, mainly in Africa and Europe.
At the regional level, for example, WIENXTRA - Institute for Leisure Education (WIENXTRA – Institut für Freizeitpädagogkik, ifp), funded by the City of Vienna, offers national and international training and exchange programmes for youth workers based in Vienna. They offer courses, seminars and workshops to improve skills and knowledge. Youth workers can also learn from best practice and work with colleagues from other countries through study trips and exchanges abroad. The Institute plays an important role in promoting the professional development of youth workers and the development of quality youth work in Vienna.