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EACEA National Policies Platform


10. Youth work

10.4 Quality and innovation in youth work

Last update: 28 November 2023



Quality assurance

Work in the domain of youth in Portugal is highly developed under several regulations and frameworks of intervention. Although the profession itself, now having a professional profile, is not regulated, in the sense that is not mandatory to have a degree to work in the youth field, it is a common requirement in most working contexts to have the training and to perform standards of quality and accountability.

For example, all funding from the state is based on Laws and regulations with strict observance of public criteria, reports, accountability and follow up.

In the context of training projects, all trainers must fulfil the basic training for trainers requirement, according to the national qualifications standards.

Portuguese youth workers regularly attend training courses of the Formar+ program,  SALTO or other recognized institutions in the field of non-formal education, such as the Council of Europe or IPDJ.

As for the professional profile of the youth worker it a level 4 EQF standard, with double certification, allowing the access to the 12th-grade degree of secondary school education, building bridges between non-formal and formal education. It is built according to the national qualifications requirements and based on important references from the European youth work portfolio, as mentioned before.

The training for "Técnico de Juventude" has 1025 hours of mandatory curricula, and another 100h at the choice of the trainee, that must have a field practice included. The curricula include a brief history of youth work, the general organization of the youth sector in Portugal and on the international level, programs and initiatives in the field of youth, youth empowerment and citizenship, the institutional structure of participation of young people, project management, among many other topics.  The curricula include workshop facilitation and some already existing training modules from the professional profile of the socio-cultural animator. Thus, the curricula profit from the historical background but aims at an independent realization of this new professional.

A reference has to be made to the transnational project “Europe Goes Local – Supporting Youth Work at the Municipal Level”, a strategic partnership from the National Agencies Erasmus + YA Programme, that aims to “raise the quality of local youth work, in particular through enhanced cooperation between various stakeholders that are active at municipal level”. The involvement of several Portuguese municipalities in the project must be highlighted, as well as the contribution of committed Portuguese youth workers to the European project. The project has contributed to innovation in Portugal, by disseminating updated trends and knowledge on the field, namely in what concerns quality standards. The second Conference of this partnership took place in Portugal - Cascais (June 2018), during the Youth European Capital, with the support of the main national stakeholders. The project didn´t stop and its relaunching is being prepared.


Research and evidence supporting youth work

Since 1974, the public institutions dedicated to the area of Youth have done some research in the field. However, the main reference for studies in Youth work and youth in Portugal is the OPJ – Observatório Permanente de Juventude.

The Permanent Observatory for Youth (OPJ) is a research and study programme of the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon, an institution responsible for its functioning and scientific coordination since 1989.

Intending to enhance the production, exchange and dissemination of scientific knowledge about the diversity of youth realities in Portugal and in the world, the OPJ benefited from a great heritage and experience of national and international research, which saw in 2010 a collection of study programs from the Permanent Observatory of Schools, operating at ICS since 2004. The OPJ is financed by ICS and the Foundation for Science and Technology (UID / SOC / 50013/2013).

OPJ developed projects in several thematic areas, such as: Youth consumption and leisure; Body, health and sexualities; Education, training and apprenticeships; Housing, family life and social ties; Professional horizons and transitions to the labour market; Youth identities and cultures; Youth, media and technology; Socialization and civic and political participation; Territory, mobility and migration; Values, representations and social attitudes.

Recently, IPDJ has developed some studies to support the development of policies, as in the case of the building of the first National Youth Plan. With the support of experienced sociologists, hired for the purpose, and also in strict cooperation with OPJ, studies and workshops were conducted to obtain data and foster the participation of youngsters to accurately evaluate their needs and aspirations and situation regarding precise indicators.

One example is also the growing proximity between central and local powers, coordinating and gaining efficiency in resource management and in the accuracy of combining initiatives and programs.

In 2019 the largest study on the action of municipalities in the Youth area was produced by IPDJ and developed by OPJ. The study, called Juventudes: “do local ao nacional” (from local to national), aimed a detailed inventory of local policies and initiatives and was complemented with public debate and presentation.

There are also developments in providing public access to information in the field of Youth. A new online tool is available since 2019: the RNAJ -  National Record of Youth Associations.

IPDJ has also promoted cooperation over subjects related to youth with universities, and has supported the organization of, for instance, a seminar on Youth Work with Universidade Nova de Lisboa, and had a close cooperation with the project Aventura Social, from Faculdade de Motricidade Humana da Universidade Nova de Lisboa.

The Portuguese Erasmus+ Youth in Action National Agency has been a partner in the long term cooperation project called ‘EUROPE GOES LOCAL –Supporting Youth Work at the Municipal Level’ (from July 2016) that aims to raise the quality of local youth work in particular through enhanced cooperation between various stakeholders that are active at the municipal level. The Partnership currently involves about 200 members who represent around 120 municipalities in the participating countries. The Europe Goes Local strategic partnership, in line with the recommendations of the 2nd Youth Work Convention and the Council of Europe recommendation on youth work, created a European Charter on Local Youth Work through a Europe-wide consultation process.  

Some universities are investing more in building knowledge and expertise in the field of youth, and Universidade Aberta has developed, in later years, a post-graduate course in Youth Studies.


Participative youth work

Youth work in Portugal is highly decentralized, participative, and participated. There are innumerous local associations and structures of proximity that work with and for youth. The collaboration of municipal and state administration with civil society organizations in the field of youth defines the action of the public sector.

The Regional Directorates of IPDJ work in close cooperation with youth organizations, municipalities, and youth workers in general, in the field of youth work. IPDJ aims to promote, support, and empower youth-led structures and civil society organizations working with and for youth to strengthen their intervention.

The National Federation of Youth Associations (FNAJ) represents local and regional youth associations, promotes a structured dialogue and the inclusion of young people with fewer opportunities in society. The FNAJ has a decisive political representation, defending and promoting the interests of youth associations before the public authorities, through critical and active participation.

The National Youth Council (CNJ), created in 1985, with legal status approved by the Assembly of the Republic, through Law 1/2006, is the representative platform of youth organizations nationwide, covering the most diverse expressions of youth associations (cultural, environmental, scout, party, student, union and confessional).

The Portuguese Association of Professionals of Youth aims to strengthen and dignify the youth workers in Portugal, as well as their recognition with the Portuguese Republic and organizations representing young people.

For the past years, co-decision and co-management have been on agenda of Portuguese youth policy as guiding principles for the transformation of the public intervention in the sector. CNJ and FNAJ detain 10% of the capital of Movijovem, the public company responsible for the management of the youth hostels of the country, the youth card and the Intra_Rail program. The two abovementioned organizations represent young people and youth associations and they are present in the corporate bodies of Movijovem, influencing directly the decisions and strategy.


Smart youth work: youth work in the digital world

In past years there has been a growing interest in digital youth work and digital initiatives. In 2018, digital youth work was in focus in the European Youth Capital Cascais 2018, as one of the topics of the Youth Academy organized jointly between IPDJ, the Municipality, CNJ, FNAJ and Erasmus+ NA. Recommendations were jointly elaborated as a final conclusion, and have been used as guidance for further developments by both public and private actors in the youth sector.

The public offer in digital tools and contents is increasing and the Portuguese Institute for Sport and Youth (IPDJ) is upgrading and developing its digital services online. Its new Portal, launched in April 2020, integrates all IPDJ´s IT platforms which is a refreshed tool that allows the reinforcement of the digital youth work and better to communicate with young people.

Digital Youth work has also been a priority since the COVID-19 pandemic and is now an essencial tool in training programmes for youth workers like Formar+.

Several initiatives focus on migrating existing activities from off-line to on-line environments. “Cuida-te +” programme, promoted by IPDJ,  aims to promote health and healthy behaviour among youth, which now offers a wide range of online services. Besides campaigns and information adapted to social networks, health professionals give direct advice online before an appointment is made.

A new project dedicated to young people called “#serjovememcasa was launched during the pandemic, in strict cooperation with youth platforms, aiming to maintain the activities directed to young people during the pandemic. The campaign has been a success and unveiled new opportunities in online youth work that bring people from different regions together and allow an easier participation.

Ser Jovem em Casa” includes a wide range of training and events that take place online, directed to young people and youth workers. The pandemic made all the actors of the youth sector move quickly towards the online activities and the training and events have a higher level of participation because there are no geographic barriers.

Youth workers have been working towards taking non-formal methodologies online and the pandemic served as a laboratory for the trainers of the pool of the Erasmus+ Youth in Action NA, the team of the Lisbon Youth Center of IPDJ and youth workers of CSO. A clear decentralization has been going on with this methodology, allowing youth workers and members of the academia related to the youth field to exchange ideas, transfer knowledge and present best practices to the public of the whole country.

The volunteers of the youth volunteer programmes promoted by IPDJ have transferred their activities to the online sphere, working with their peers with diverse methodologies, online meetings, collaboration, videos, etc. The training of the volunteers of the 70Já volunteering programme took place, for the first time, online. The trainers created a mixed methodology that aimed to transfer non-formal methodologies online. There are clear advantages to this methodology. Volunteers from all over the country participated in the same training, got to know each other and exchanged ideas, in a way that could never happen offline.

The “Naveg@s em segurança?” programme is a youth volunteering project to raise awareness of young people for online security and digital citizenship. This programme has tools that were used online. The young volunteers organised 15 webinars and awareness online sessions, producing resources  such as presentations and videos.

The Employment and Vocational Training Institute (IEFP) promotes the “Jovem + Digital” programme, created through Ordinance No. 250-A/2020, which is a training programme for the acquisition of specific skills in the digital area by young people.