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Youth workers are not defined in the Youth Work Act.
The youth workers are mostly paid, about 8% of youth workers do the work voluntarily. Everybody who works with young people is called a youth worker, regardless of whether they receive a salary or not.
In Estonia, there is an Occupational standard for youth workers (see more in Chapter 10.4.). There are minimum requirements set that a youth worker should know or do, including the code of ethics. If a youth worker finishes the assessment process positively, they will be issued a professional certificate of a youth worker. This is not mandatory to obtain, but there are more and more local municipalities that have connected the existence of youth work education and/or professional certificate with funding of youth work and salaries or vacations of youth workers.
Youth work can be studied in three universities in Estonia:
- Tallinn University – higher applied sciences degree in youth work and a master’s degree in youth work organization;
- Tartu University Narva college – bachelor’s degree in youth work;
- Tartu University Viljandi cultural academy – higher applied sciences degree in community education and hobby activities.
The training of youth workers was organized through the ESF programme “Development of youth workers training” (“Noorsootöötajate koolituste arendamine”) until 2020 that compiles of two parts:
- training activities targeted at youth field workers;
- support of the development and quality of the training system.
The programme was implemented by the Foundation Archimedes youth agency (since 01.01.2021, the Department of Youth Programs of the Agency of Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps of the Education and Youth Board) in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Research and Estonian Youth Work Centre (starting from 01.08.2020 Education and Youth Board). All the trainings in the programme support the competences brought out in the occupational standard for youth workers.
The validation of skills and competencies gained by youth workers through non-formal, informal and formal learning is carried out with the applying process of youth worker’s professional qualification. The assessment is based only on the competences, regardless of how they were obtained. See more in Chapter 10.4.
Mobility of youth workers is organized by the Department of Youth Programs of the Agency of Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps of the Education and Youth Board (until 31.12.2020 the Foundation Archimedes youth agency), and it supports the professional development of youth workers through international seminars, trainings, study visits, etc. Additionally, job-shadowing possibilities in youth work organizations are offered. Erasmus+ funds the mobility of youth workers on the international level.
In addition, it is possible to participate in various international training activities that are mediated through SALTO-YOUTH or the Department of Youth Programs of the Agency of Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps of the Education and Youth Board. The last one also organized national level trainings up to 2019 through the programme “Development of youth workers training” co-funded by ESF.
It is possible to read more about the cross-border mobility programmes in Chapter 2.5.
There are some regional-level initiatives as well. For example, the Tartu County Youth Workers Association (Tartumaa Noorsootöötajate Ühendus) has visited all the Tartu County youth field organizations, organized seminars where there are presented best practices, organized training programmes in order to raise the competences in the field of ICT, organized study visits abroad, etc. The activities are funded from the national LEADER programme within the Tartu County measure through the project “Developing and empowering of the Tartu county youth work cooperation network”.
The main objective of all mobility activities is professional development, capacity building, sharing experiences, etc.