10. Youth Work
Youth work in Estonia has a history of more than 100 years, going back to the 19th century with the creation of forerunners of youth work. The first act regarding youth work was accepted in 1936 (Youth Organization Act). By today, youth work is defined by law: "Youth work is the creation of conditions to promote the diverse development of young persons, which enable them to be active outside their families, formal education and work, on the basis of their free will.” See Chapter 10.1.
In Estonia, the youth sector is considered to encompass both youth work and youth policy, tightly connected to each other. According to the Local Government Organization Act, local governments have a key role in organizing youth work. Most of the financing comes from the budget and own income of local municipalities. See Chapter 10.2.
The main top-level policies and regulations on youth work are:
- Youth Work Act – adopted in 1999, provides a legal basis for the organization and financing of youth work; see Chapter 1.2.
- Youth Sector Development Plan 2021-2035 (Noortevaldkonna arengukava 2021-2035), adopted 12.08.2021; see Chapter 1.3.
The quality of youth work is assessed diversely depending on the operational/funding mechanism, project, or programme. For example, an occupational standard of youth workers has been adopted (first version since 2016), also a quality assessment model for local municipalities exists and Estonia has also participated in an international project “Developing and Communicating the Impact of Youth Work in Europe”, which aimed to identify the impact of open youth work in the UK (England), Finland, Estonian, Italy, and France. One of the recent additions for data informed policy making include a youth specific data tool called Noorteseire Juhtimislaud and minuomavalitsus.ee, a web-based systematised overview of the state of local governments’ services, incl. services in youth sector. In 2016 Estonia adopted a concept of smart youth work, see Chapter 10.4.
Youth work as a professional area is not defined in the Youth Work Act, however it is defined in Youth Sector Development Plan 2021-2035 (Noortevaldkonna arengukava 2021-2035) (and before that in previous youth field strategies on national level). The competences and ethical principles of youth work are defined inOccupational standards of youth workers (on different qualifications levels), amended in 2017. Youth work can be studied in three academic institutions in Estonia, Tallinn University, Tartu University Narva College and Tartu University Viljandi Culture Academy, on different levels - higher applied sciences degree, bachelor's degree, master's degree. Youth work can be realised either as work on paid position or as volunteer commitments. Read more about youth workers, their training and study possibilities, and mobility, from Chapter 10.5.
Information regarding youth work, also youth information is disseminated by a wide range of partners involved in the youth sector, incl. youth organisations, open youth centres etc. Youth information provides young people information regarding different spheres of their lives, supports their independency, increases their knowledge of different opportunities and choices to organize their life better, and increases the meaningful participation in the society. Youth information in Estonia is targeted to young people aged 7-26 and is based on the needs and interests of young people. The key initiatives in this respect are the national youth information portal teeviit.ee (available in Estonian and Russian languages), the National Youth Work Week (held annually in the end of November) and International Youth Day (celebrated annually on 11th of August). Read more about national youth information and respective key initiatives from Chapter 10.7.
Regarding the coordination of youth sector on national level, since 01.08.2020 the Education and Youth Boardis responsible for that in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Research, Youth and Talent Department. The latter has been responsible for developing the national youth strategy in co-creation with wide range of partners and stakeholders at national level. The Youth Sector Development Plan 2021-2035 (Noortevaldkonna arengukava 2021-2035) was adopted 12.08.2021.