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The quality of youth work is assessed differently depending on the mechanism, project, or programme. For example, there are three out of many mechanisms brought out.
Competences of youth workers
Occupational standard of youth workers levels 4, 6 and 7, which have all a bit different competences (level 4 has organizing youth work, interacting with the public and cooperation, providing a safe environment, professional personal development, and youth worker recurring competence; levels 6 and 7 have additionally competences like management, youth field development). The awarding body of youth worker professional certificates was up to 31.07.2020 the Estonian Youth Work Centre. Starting from 01.08.2020, the Estonian Youth Work Centre amongst with other organizations under the administration of the Ministry of Education and Research were joint and a new organization called Education and Youth Board was set up.
First, the youth workers have to go through a self-assessment process by filling in a portfolio based on the occupational standard. After that, an interview is conducted, which decides if the youth worker is awarded with a professional qualification certificate or not. Besides a professional qualification of youth workers, there is also a partial qualification certificate for youth personnel, which is mandatory to have when working in a youth camp. The competences are assessed through a written exam. By the end of 2020, there are more than 300 valid youth worker certificates and more than 2 600 camp counselor or director partial professional certificates.
Quality assessment model for local municipalities
A tool for local municipalities helping them map the strengths and weaknesses of youth work, plan future developments based on the results and monitor progress. There are four main indicators that have sub-indicators:
- there are versatile possibilities for non-formal learning for young people;
- there are possibilities of gaining participation experience;
- there are conditions created of receiving youth information, prevention and counseling activities;
- the environment needed for quality youth work has been created.
First, the local municipality conducts a self-assessment after which external evaluation is being carried out. During the assessments, different youth work stakeholders have to be involved. The outcomes are based on the self- and external assessment results and shows the municipality their weak and strong points. After that, the municipality can plan future developments in order to reach their goals. The assessment process is not mandatory for the local municipalities, but help the municipality to improve the quality of youth work done in their area. By the end of 2019, 62 local municipalities out of 79 have gone through the assessment process. In the end of 2020, there are debates on how to make the quality assessment model electronic.
Financing of hobby education and hobby activities in local municipalities
The aim of state funding is to improve the availability of hobby education and activities and to offer more versatile participation possibilities. The municipalities have to compile a plan on how they will be using the financial support, in which they have to bring out:
- number of unique young people aged 7-19 participating in youth work;
- number of possibilities to participate in youth work;
- description of weaknesses and solutions to solve the problems.
In order to describe the weaknesses, the municipality can use the results of the quality assessment model. Each year, the local municipality has to present the results of the activities to the Education and Youth Board. There is a specific platform made for inserting the results, called Digilahendus (Digital Solution). The state funding has helped the local municipalities to involve young people better and to enlarge the possibilities of participating in hobby education and activities. During the years 2017-2018, there have been conducted almost 1 800 different activities participated by 59 000 young people. This means that 63% more young people can participate in the hobby education and activities than without state support. There is a specific page created in order to visualize the results of the activity Noorte Huvi Heaks.
National authorities in Estonia support better knowledge and understanding of youth work. In the ESF-funded programme “Inclusion of young people at risk of exclusion and improvement of youth employability” (“Tõrjutusriskis noorte kaasamine ja noorte tööhõivevalmiduse parandamine”), there is an activity called “Increasing knowledge of young people and the impact of activities aimed to young people”. The aim of the activity is to get a better knowledge of the reasons young people are at the risk of exclusion and assessing the impact of activities targeted to young people (including young people at risk of exclusion). The budget for the whole activity for 2020 was more than 2.3 million euros.
With that activity, there will be data collected regarding the current situation of young people; the data is available to all people on webpages Noorteseire and Juhtimisalauad. In addition, there are different analyses’ conducted yearly, in order to show the general situation of the young people in different fields of their lives, for example, through the Youth Monitor (Noorteseire). This is done in cooperation with Tallinn University and the Statistics Estonia. The activity has other measures as well that are connected with obtaining a better knowledge of young people, including seminars on youth data awareness and usage for youth workers, tools or models in order to obtain a better knowledge of youth and the results of youth work, etc.
During the years 2016-2018, Estonia 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. The results of the projects show that participation in open youth work in Estonia has enabled to broaden the developmental possibilities of young people and it affects significantly the development of social skills of young people. After the end of the project, Estonia has used this method of measuring impact as one of the official measures to measure and show the impact of youth work.
In the Youth Field Development Plan 2014-2020 (Noortevaldkonna arengukava 2014-2020), there is one indicator called “Youth satisfaction with youth work” that is being measured regularly based on research. The last research was conducted in 2018 and that showed that almost 90% of the young people are satisfied with youth work. In the end of 2020, a new survey is being conducted.
There is no specific budget for supporting research on youth work, but throughout the ESF-funded programme mentioned above, it is possible to support research activities. Additionally, the state budget has funding for the whole youth field, including research activities.
Each policy field in Estonia has its own way to evaluate the policies and regulations on the basis of evidence from research. It is possible to read more regarding evidence-based youth policy from Chapter 1.6.
In Estonia, the youth field consists of youth work and youth policy. Therefore, the information regarding participative youth work is the same as in Chapter 5.4.
The current national youth development plan of Estonia - Youth Field Development Plan 2014-2020 (Noortevaldkonna arengukava 2014-2020) - aims to create more opportunities for young people to explore and develop their full potential and in order to do so, among other approaches, states the need to develop a concept for smart youth work:
- to make greater use of information technology in working with youth, including raising the digital literacy of young people by offering ICT-related hobby activities;
- developing youth work using new means;
- raising the competencies of young people and youth workers.
As one of the milestones in the further development process, the Ministry of Education and Research commissioned a study “The use and possibilities of using digital solutions in youth work” in 2016 and later during the same year, the national concept paper on Smart Youth Work was adopted as a result of the national working group. The concept paper was further supported by the respective action plan until 2020, which translates the ambition for the development of smart youth work into specific activities on the national level.
In 2017, Estonia held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union with smart youth work as one of its working priorities in the youth field, resulting in the adoption of the Council conclusions on smart youth work in November 2017.
The concept of smart youth work describes the main principles and strategic objectives in three key areas:
- activities aimed at young people;
- development needs of youth workers for implementing smart youth work;
- developing quality of youth work and a better knowledge of youth using digital means.
All of these three key areas are respectively supported via relevant trainings, various measures aimed at further development of digital and technological infrastructure as well as facilitating diverse cross-sectoral cooperation and partnerships. Here are some examples to illustrate the measures:
- A specific call for tenders with the aim to inspire and support the development of smart youth work, especially the new practices and digi-technological solutions in youth work practice. Such specific funds are allocated to support smart solutions for example in open youth centers as well as in hobby education and the results show increased opportunities for youth for digital content creation (e.g. programming and gaming), communication and collaboration as well as raising their competences in information and data literacy, safety and problem solving, etc. In all of these projects, also the cooperation with technology field experts on the local level is required.
- In order to support the competence development of youth workers, specific competencies related to smart youth work are addressed both in the youth work curricula as well as through non-formal education targeted at youth workers on various levels, on national level specifically by the Education and Youth Board (until 31.07.2020, the Estonian Youth Work Centre and until 31.12.2020, the Foundation Archimedes youth agency, which also is the National Agency for Erasmus+). Some examples of topics include new digital tools and the use of these in youth work settings; digital behavior of young people and communication trends in the digital era, development of the network of digital ambassadors in the youth field, etc. Compilation of educational materials in the field of smart youth work is also under attention, for example, a publication “Digitalization and youth work” has been developed in cooperation between Estonian Youth Work Centre (since 01.08.2020 the Education and ouh Board) and Verke, an e-course on digital youth work by Tartu University Narva College, etc.
- Estonia is dedicated to continually develop new approaches and tools to support the further quality of youth field and as one of the innovative tools, a youth statistics dashboard has been launched in cooperation of Estonian Youth Work Centre (starting from 01.08.2020 the Education and Youth Board) and Statistics Estonia in October 2019 to support data evident and informed youth policy decisions on all levels.