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Status in national legislation
Youth workers are defined in the Decree for the Promotion of Youth Work (Dekret zur Förderung der Jugendarbeit) as “a qualified person carrying out youth work in a professional capacity”. Compared to that, “volunteer youth leaders are persons carrying out voluntary unpaid youth work within a youth centre”.
In order to be eligible for funding, youth centres have to ensure – among other things – that their activities are supervised by professional youth workers or volunteer youth leaders.
If youth centres employ youth workers on the basis of the decree, these youth workers must meet the following conditions:
- present an extract from the criminal records showing no imposition of a custodial sentence of over six months;
a) either be in possession of a university degree in the social, educational or youth work area
b) or be in possession of the school leaving certificate or completed apprenticeship certification, prove sufficient experience in children’s activities and undertake after appointment as a youth worker to complete a training course in the youth work area approved by the government at the suggestion of the Youth Commission.
On a proposal by the Youth Commission giving reasons, the government may:
- recognise degrees other than the ones stated above as equivalent;
- approve training courses in another discipline than the one stated above, e.g. to cover a specific need.
The employment of youth workers is funded either by an annual lump sum grant according to the full-time equivalent (youth organisations) or by a grant covering running and staffing costs (youth information centres and outreach youth work). The employer is either the respective local authority, the open youth work agency or the Youth Office of the German-speaking community. The details of the grant are specified in a contract for services, whereby usually 87.5 % of the eligible proportion of the staffing costs of the youth workers are covered by the Government, providing the local authority makes a 12.5 % contribution towards these staffing costs.
Education, training and skills recognition
Advanced training of Youth Workers
In order to have their staffing costs covered by the government, employed youth workers must regularly attend advanced training courses corresponding to the requirements of the respective youth centre. These must cover at least 90 hours every three years.
Youth workers who on appointment in a funded youth centre are not in possession of a university degree in the social educational area must follow an advanced training course on the topic of the protection of young people from neglect, violence and sexual abuse no later than during the year after their appointment.
Volunteer youth leaders
The Youth Commission organises a basic training leading to “Accreditation Certificate as volunteer youth leader”. Other basic training courses that are not organised by the Youth Commission but meet general content criteria may also lead to “Accreditation Certificate as volunteer youth leader”. A basic training course:
- has to be aimed primarily at young people or volunteers resident in the German-speaking area who are working in youth work in the German-speaking area;
- has to be imparting skills and proficiency in the non-formal area regarding personal competence, group management, specialist skill or socio-political commitment;
- has to be open to all young people and volunteers working in the youth area.
The provider of advanced training courses must at least:
- have the material resources for optimally running the advanced training course;
- expect to carry out as mandatory an evaluation of the course provided by the attendees.
- use methods adapted to the targets and target audience and
- use competent lecturers;
The government may lay down more specific conditions.
The basic training course consists of two training cycles. The first training cycle covers at least 40 hours of theory plus a first aid training course.It prepares the trainees for leading a group of young people responsibly and supporting this group in the realisation of their projects, independently planning and conducting activities or projects, observing group processes -with attention to the special care of the youth leader for the protection of young people from neglect, violence and sexual abuse - and if necessary responding to it in an educationally appropriate way. The cycle will in addition impart knowledge about the structures of youth work in the German-speaking Community.
The second training cycle covers at least 30 hours and consists of a choice of:
- a practical placement whereby the trainee is supervised by a placement tutor and works independently with a youth group for at least 15 hours;
- a practical placement whereby the trainee is supervised by a placement tutor and works independently with a youth group for at least eight hours and a theoretical training course to which at least 16 hours is devoted or
- a theoretical training course.
The second training cycle is for consolidating the knowledge gained in the first training cycle.
The placement tutor must attend a theoretical advanced training course that covers at least 20 hours and familiarise him/her with the content of the first training course and the duties of a placement tutor. In addition he/she must meet the following conditions:
- work or have worked full-time in the youth area or
- have two years’ experience as a volunteer youth leader and attend of at least 20 hours of the first training cycle.
Mobility of youth workers
The Bel’J programme was established in 2009 and gives young people between 12 and 30 the opportunity to meet young people from other Communities in Belgium. The programme originates from the idea that you can only explore the way of life of others, with all their similarities and differences, through real and long-term contacts.
The Ministers of Youth of the 3 Communities in Belgium are convinced that these contacts should be encouraged. They therefore support this joint programme with opportunities for exchange and non-formal learning activities.
Within the Bel’J programme there are 3 types of activities:
- It gives young people the opportunity to volunteer alone, or in a group of maximum 3 people, for 10 days to 3 months in an organisation from one of the other Communities. This way they familiarise themselves with the organisation and its work or they can set up a creative project there.
- A second possibility is for groups of 8 to 60 young people from the three Communities to spend 4 to 15 days together and undertake joint projects.
In these two cases the young people become acquainted with the daily life of the other Communities. It gives them the opportunity to get to know each other's culture and potentially to establish lasting bonds with young people from the French-speaking or the Flemish-speaking Community.
- The third option of the programme focuses on youth workers. During a Youth Workers Mobility Project youth workers can learn from each other by taking part in a job shadowing exercise and/or collaborative projects for youth work organisations.
Project applications that are approved receive a financial contribution to cover the costs.
Each Community appointed an Agency to implement the programme. It is the Agency's task to disseminate information about Bel’J, to maintain contact with the organisations involved, to support young people and to complete the administrative and financial procedures. The 3 Agencies are:
- Flemish Community - JINT vzw
- French Community - Bureau International Jeunesse (BIJ)
- German-speaking Community - Jugendbüro der Deutschsprachigen Gemeinschaft V.o.G (Jugendbüro)
Mobility Projects for Youth Workers
The Erasmus+ Programme offers the possibility to apply for youth worker mobility projects. The responsible National Agency for the implementation of the programme in the German-speaking Community is the Jugendbüro.