From 7-10 December, the 3rd European Youth Work Convention took place online under Germany’s joint Presidency of the European Union and the Council of Europe. Over 1000 participants took part in workshops, plenary discussions, keynote speeches and much more. This Convention played a crucial role in kicking off the newly adopted European Youth Work Agenda as a strategic framework for further developing and strengthening youth work practice and policies and shaping youth work development across Europe.
Having joined online, it’s hard to realise how many discussions took place paving the way to the adoption of a Declaration focused on the implementation of the European Youth Work Agenda. Eurodesk took an active part in the Convention as a member of the steering group and by leading workshops on “Greening youth information services” and on the “Promotion and recognition of youth work”. The Convention is over but not the process towards implementing the Agenda, the so-called “Bonn Process” (eywc2020.eu). Eurodesk aims to contribute to the Agenda, for instance on the recognition of youth work.
If the Agenda recognises the diversity of youth work and the different traditions across the EU Member States, youth workers face common challenges such as the understanding of the value of youth work. We believe in our work, we see the social impact it has and how it can change the life of young people, but when we talk to people – politicians, partners from other fields but also friends - it’s really not clear for them. This can be problematic when those who fund our services do not understand what we do and our added value. Our challenge is double: how to create awareness and recognition about our work and how to make sure we can live up to the quality standards we are setting for ourselves?
Those challenges are central for Eurodesk. For most people, youth information is understood in a very broad way as any type of content targeted at young people which means Tik Tok, Facebook, magazines… Most people do not recognise it as a professional service within youth work operating through trained youth information workers. Of course, there are diverse models in Europe: the occupation is seldom recognised and youth information services are not structured in most countries. However, we share a common understanding of the importance of providing quality youth information, when young people are confronted with fake news, that trust in institutions is declining, etc. Furthermore, young people face multiple challenges, and really need support to find opportunities, access their rights and navigate through information. And those needs have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 sanitary crisis.
As a European network, it was important to raise awareness on the role of youth information and get the recognition it deserves at local, regional, national and European level. In the last years, Eurodesk has moved from developing internal to external recognition tools. The first step was to build a common narrative and understanding within our network, characterized by a huge diversity. In 2018, we developed the Eurodesk Mobility Advisor Competence Framework based on a wide internal consultation and bottom up process. The framework is not a stand-alone tool, it comes with capacity building tools, because we want it to be alive in our network. This work contributed to reinforcing the quality of our services and learning provision, as well as the community dimension of our network. Of course, it was not enough and we continued our path on the road to recognition.
The EU has developed a multilingual classification of European Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations called “ESCO” that contains the occupation of a youth worker. Eurodesk requested to be a member of the ESCO Fora in charge of reviewing the portal and built a partnership with Eryica, Salto Training and the EU-CoE Youth Partnership to propose a new occupation of the youth information worker. The Europe-wide consultation confirmed that a youth information worker has specific competences as compared to a youth worker, and resulted in a definition and set of competences. The proposal was validated by the Commission and is now to be reviewed by the Member States. Having a youth information worker occupation in ESCO is an important step as it could be used as a reference point in the EU Member States.
The results of the consultation were very rich and Eurodesk and Eryica decided to launch a joint working group to develop a competence framework of the Youth information worker to be released by the end of 2021. The aim is to raise awareness on the occupation, contribute to the quality of the sector and propose a model for governments willing to develop or revise their own competence frameworks. The adoption of this framework will be another milestone in the recognition of our profession, that will build on the Bonn process and Youth Work Agenda. To be successful, it has to become a reference in our field, and this is our ambition. It represents one contribution of Eurodesk to make the European Youth Work Agenda alive.