10.5 Youth workers
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Status in national legislation
In Sweden, there are no specific standards and criteria regarding health and safety requirements for working with youth. Neither are there requirements for minimum qualifications for specific pedagogical, educational, relational competences or for compliance with specific codes of ethics.
In Swedish national youth policy, the concept of youth work is seldom used. Instead, in government policy documents the concept of meaningful leisure activities (meningsfull fritid) is central. That concept relates both to mainly membership-based activities in youth organisations and to open meeting places for young people such as youth clubs or recreational centres.
In the context of youth organisations, those in charge of activities are most commonly members of the organisation and working on a voluntary basis. The organisation is responsible for their training. Those working in youth clubs or recreational centres are commonly employed, by the municipality or by the organisation running the centre.
On the other hand, almost all professional efforts to address social conditions of young people are organised, regulated and financed by the public sector. The concept of social work has come to be the general category to identify these efforts. Therefore, few professionals identify themselves as youth workers, even if their tasks relate to young people in a way that in other contexts would be understood as youth work (Andersson 2018).
In the History of Youth Work in Europe, volume 6, Björn Andersson states that one should not expect to find much youth work in Sweden. But, he continues, there are a lot of actions and efforts directed towards young people, but few, if any, would be identified by the concept of youth work. Professionals and volunteers involved rather specify the concrete organisational setting where they work in, or just say they work with young people. He proposes six main areas for youth work in Sweden:
- youth organisations;
- recreational and activity-orientes youth centres;
- outreach and field work;
- investigative/support-oriented services;
- recidential care;
- therapeutic work.
The Swedish Government has also initiated a number of comprehensive programmes and actions, where the target group consists of young people in a more vulnerable position, such as NEET, young people at risk for violence and radicalisation, young people with a migrant or ethnic minority background, young LBGT-persons, young disabled and newly arrived young migrants. See section 4.4, Inclusive Programmes for Young People, for more information.
These government actions usually combine knowledge compilations on the current theme, as well as dissemination to relevant professionals working in health care or in schools, in social work, in the police force and in organised leisure, including both youth centres and sports. Even volunteers active in CSOs and in faith communities are targeted.
Education, training and skills recognition
Youth work training
Training for youth work is mainly provided by Swedish folk high schools (folkhögskolor). The folk high schools provide a two-year study programme (fritidsledarutbildning), leading to a diploma in youth work. There is a common training plan/curriculum that all folk high schools follow. Information on the study programme is made available at the youth work website.
In 2019, the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil society conducted a questionnaire on youth work, focusing on educational levels of youth workers. 212 out of 290 municipalities participated. The results were presented 2019 in a report.
According to the survey, over 60% of the professionals working in open leisure centres lack formal education. This means that some basic skills are lacking in many leisure activities.
Mobility of youth workers
There are no national policies or programmes offering the possibility for youth workers to take part in exchange opportunities, cooperation and networking at local, regional, national and international level.