10.5 Youth workers
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Status of youth worker
In Slovenia, the status of the youth worker is accessible to every individual who expresses an intention to work as a youth worker. Youth workers in Slovenia can be paid employees or can be involved in youth activities on a voluntary basis. Involvement can be full- time or part-time among both paid employees and volunteers, also involving a rich variety of people. Evidence suggest (see country report Working with young people: the value of youth work in the European Union ) that the majority of youth workers are trained via other professions: a research study from 2006 found that among the 263 people interviewed, 76 different occupations were reported.
Since 2008, the Catalogue of functions, jobs and titles (Katalog funkcij, delovnih mest in nazivov) specifies five roles (the data is valid from 2021 ) for those working in public sector (e.g. in publicly funded youth centres):
Table 1: Youth worker profession in classification of public sector professions
Youth worker II
Youth worker I
Youth programmes coordinator
Head of youth programmes
Specialist for youth work
There is no official statistic how many youth workers there are in Slovenia.
Specific standards and criteria for youth workers
There are no minimum qualification standards for publicly funded youth workers or for volunteer/unpaid youth workers. However, in 2017, occupational standard and catalogue of standards of professional knowledge and skills have been approved for youth workers. Youth worker as a vocation/occupation has been recognised as part of the National Vocational Qualification System and with it, part of the Vocational Education and training system in Slovenia. The occupational standards established at the national level are compared with candidates’ acquired knowledge and experience. Occupational competences of youth workers defined in the occupational standard (poklicni standard) are (youth worker is able to):
- plan, implement and evaluate youth programmes in cooperation with young people;
- establish and maintain cooperative and confidential relations with a young person;
- work with young people in groups and teams;
- enable young people to acquire competences;
- undertake activities to disseminate the results of young people's work;
- ensure the quality of one's own work and to take care of one's own personal and professional development;
- respect the principles of sustainable development and the protection of health at work with young people.
The occupational profile of a youth worker involves different types of staff, especially within organisations in the youth sector. Youth workers are running youth organisations or groups of young people, do project work, volunteering, non-formal education and other professional support to young people. Youth workers also help young people to develop their skills and talents, especially in the field of extracurricular activities. In communication with young people, youth worker implements and designs youth work programmes. The youth worker is an expert in organizing, implementing and evaluating the activities of young people in their free time and placing them in the decision-making processes. Detailed description can be find in National Professional Qualification framework.
Paths in initial education leading to a qualification as youth worker
There is no formal education for a youth worker in Slovenia. There are also no accredited courses in youth work in Slovenia, but the Faculty of Social Work (University of Ljubljana) provides a course on methods of youth work that is part of the social work studies. The Faculty of social work offers at the first cycle study a subject Methods of working with young people (Metode dela z mladimi). The subject’s content is:
- characteristics of contemporary youth, which are particularly relevant for understanding youth work methods in the non-governmental youth sector;
- characteristics and trends in the non-governmental youth sector (youth work, youth policies) in Slovenia and Europe;
- participatory youth work methods;
- games and other dynamic methods working with young people;
- evaluating youth programmes.
Some of the subject’s goals are:
- knowledge of the field of youth work in Slovenia, in a comparative perspective;
- knowledge of youth policies in Slovenia and Europe;
- use of modern methods and skills when working with young people;
- judging relevance and effectiveness of youth programmes and methods of working with young people.
First cycle study programme “Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences” at the Faculty of Arts (University of Maribor) offers a special module “Youth work and youth studies (Mladinskodelo in študije mladine). Within this module, students have three subjects: 1. Introduction to youth work and research of youth; 2. Group dynamics and communication; 3. Practical course and the evaluation of the practical course. Subject syllabus describes that the students develop broad knowledge base pertaining to the youth work, and self-evaluating skills which help them further extend and perfect the practices used when involved with the youth.
In Slovenia, an individual can acquire National Vocational Qualification of Youth worker. Since it was not possible to obtain a publicly valid education for performing youth work profession, the Office of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth introduced an initiative to prepare the occupational standard and a Catalogue of standards of professional knowledge and skills for a youth worker, based on the Resolution on the National Programme for Youth. The proposal for the initiative was discussed and approved by the relevant sectoral committee for vocational standards in March 2015. Consequently, the Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Vocational Education and Training (CPI) began the preparation of the proposal of the qualification standard. The qualification standard for a youth worker was adopted by the Expert Council of the Republic of Slovenia for Vocational Education and Training in December 2016. At that point, the youth worker has become a profession. The aim is to make this qualification a formally recognised qualification, gained as follows:
- Completion of programme for vocational or professional education
- Verification and validation of national vocational qualification.
The profession of a youth worker can be obtained through the National Occupational Qualification System, which means that the candidate draws up a compilation of a portfolio (e.g. certificates, supporting documents, reference letters, products, recognition documents …) with his/her past experience and defends it in front of the committee. In the event that the candidate fails to prove all the competences from the occupational standard with the portfolio, he/she needs to pass the exam.
Training for continuous professional development available to youth workers
Although there is no formal education to become a youth worker or a youth leader in Slovenia, there are many different training opportunities available for youth workers within different national (youth) organisations. Main providers of such trainings are:
- Youth Network MaMa;
- National Youth Council of Slovenia;
- Institute for the development of youth mobility (Zavod MOVIT), National agency for Erasmus+: Youth programme;
- Centre for information service, co-operation and development of NGOs;
- within many of national youth organisations, who provide “learning by doing opportunities”.
Topics of the courses are, for example: basic training in project management, communication skills, public relations, intercultural learning, intergeneration cooperation, fundraising and organisational management (see country report Working with young people: the value of youth work in the European Union). However, no systematic data are available on this. The Office for Youth does not specifically provide trainings, but (co)finances the trainings which are provided by organisations in the youth sector.
Examples of trainings:
- “Basics of youth work and digital youth work” (Usposabljanje osnove mladinskega dela in digitalno mladinsko delo) by the Youth Network MaMa in 2021. It focuses on the basics of youth work, visions of youth centers, youth policies, involvement of vulnerable target groups in youth center programmes, digital youth work. The training took place only in year 2021.
- “Young people’s mental health” (Spletno usposabljanje na temo duševnega zdravja mladih) by the Youth Network MaMa – training was organised in response to the relevance of young people's mental health topic in times of pandemic was implemented in the year 2020.
- “Training course for managers in youth organisations” (Usposabljanje za menedžerje vmladinskih organizacijah) is implemented since 2010 every year by the National Youth Council of Slovenia – intended for those who hold leadership roles in youth organisations or are preparing for this role. The purpose of the training is to train experienced youth leaders to take leadership roles in youth organisations responsibly.
- “Training course for trainers in youth work” (Usposabljanje za trenerje v mladinskem delu) since 2008 every year by the National Youth Council of Slovenia – the purpose of the training is to train coaches in youth work for: preparation, implementation and evaluation of youth work trainings; working with young adults; designing a system of holistic growth for youth leaders in their organisation; to educate potential staff for the National Youth Council’s “Pool of trainers”.
- “Trainings for applicants and beneficiaries” (Izobraževanja za prijavitelje in upravičence) by Zavod MOVIT, the Institute for the development of youth mobility since the beginning of the program regularly provides various international trainings, seminars and conferences. The trainings are intended to encourage exchanges of good practice and international cooperation and to develop the capacities of organisations in the field of youth work and the development of further projects within the Erasmus + Programme: Youth in Action in Slovenia.
- Supporting Evidence-based Education of Youth Workers (SEEYW) since 2021 aims at strengthening capacities of youth workers. Through laying the groundwork for the professionalization of youth work and delivering a set of outputs related to the evidence-based education and training of youth workers, the project contributes in the long term to the overall quality of youth work provision in project partner countries, as well as potentially having an impact in a wider geographical context. The priorities of the project are based on the established needs for quality youth work education and training.
- Trainings and courses (Odbor za izobraževanje) are every year offered by the ŠKIS Association (Association of Student Clubs of Slovenia) – support and assist student club activists in the successful and quality functioning of the club, encourage the transfer of knowledge of older activists to new ones, and support and form non-formal education among the students. Trainers are trained throughout the year in education domestically and abroad.
- “For youth health” (Za zdravje mladih 2.0 (2017-2019) by the Slovenian catholic Girl Guides and Boy Scouts Association, together with the Association No Excuse – trainings for youth leaders and workshops designed to raise awareness and educate people about coping with risk factors to prevent addiction.
- “For youth health” (Za zdravje mladih 1.0 (2015-2016)) by the Slovenian catholic Girl Guides and Boy Scouts Association, together with the Association No Excuse, the Scout Association of Slovenia and the Slovenian National Youth Council – training courses for youth leaders and youth workers on the issues of health of young people (2015/2016).
- “Training for Youth Career Counsellors” (2016) (Usposabljanje za mladinske karierne svetovalce) by the Nefiks Institute – course intended for young people and youth workers who want to provide support to young people regarding career development. The project is co-financed by the MIZŠ and the European Social Fund.
Procedure for the validation of skills and competences gained by youth workers through non-formal and informal learning
In Slovenia, since 2017 an individual can acquire National Vocational Qualification of Youth worker. National Occupational Qualifications give individuals a possibility to validate their skills and knowledge obtained through the pursuit of one’s occupation, volunteer work, leisure activities, participation in non-formal training programmes, self-learning etc. The recognition is facilitated by the Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Vocational Education and Training.
National Vocational Qualifications attests to one’s competence to perform a certain occupation. The certificate is also recognised at the national and European level ( see country report Working with young people: the value of youth work in the European Union) skills acquired through youth work, there are some practices in the youth sector (Nefiks, Moje izkušnje, TaPas, MEPI, Mladinska značka v ovkiru TiPovej etc.), that are more or less closely linked to the established European platforms (Europass, Youthpass) (see section 10.6 Recognition and validation of skills acquired through youth work).
Mobility is mostly done through a range of EU programmes, especially the Erasmus+ Programme and the European Solidarity Corps. The Implementation plan for the period 2020/2021 (Izvedbeni načrt Resolucije o Nacionalnem program za mladino 2013-2022 za leti2018 in 2019) has this specific aim in the field: Promoting inclusion in international youth work and learning mobility in youth work and strengthening them. Two measures are provided in order to reach this goal: Erasmus+ Key Action 1 (Mobility projects for young people and youth workers) and Erasmus+ Key Action 2 (Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices). Both measures are implemented by MOVIT, the National Agency for the Erasmus+: Youth in Action Programme.
Mobility of youth workers usually takes place at the international level, mostly through the Erasmus+ Programme and the European Solidarity Corps.
The main reason for mobility of youth workers is mostly capacity building – both individuals and organisations. This mobility is predominantly done through the Erasmus+ the Transnational Cooperation Activities (TCA). This capacity building should also be seen in the light of project management within the programme: contact making seminars, partnership building, finding common content points for potential new projects.