Universities may hold the key to improving how we measure impact at the same time as improving impact itself. But with so many courses being at risk, are we on the brink of a catastrophe that could set both things back drastically?
Sadly, there is evidence that the state of Youth Work training and programmes of ‘Continuing Professional Development’ (CPD) have been in decline for a while. In 2011, the Education Select Committee’s Review of Services for Young People said:
The low priority afforded to continuing professional development of the youth workforce is concerning, in particular the fact that, according to the last audit conducted by the National Youth Agency in 2008, some 33% of local authorities spent nothing at all on it (p.48).
Indicative of this decline are the figures on the uptake of JNC courses in Youth Work that the National Youth Agency (NYA) has recently shared. In 2008 (a recent high) 1,470 people were recruited onto JNC Youth Work courses – today that number stands at just 674, representing a 55% drop from its lofty heights – or an average of 12% fewer students enrolling per year, each year since 2008. Between 2012/13 and 2013/14 the number of JNC courses on offer has dropped from 57 to 51, representing a loss of just over 10% of our courses.
CPD courses have a key role to play in the justification of our profession:
- Getting professionally qualified helps put us on a similar footing to other professionals. Our peers come to better recognise our role and impact
- Trained Youth Workers (arguably) produce more impactful Youth Work
- Through training, the Youth Workforce is better able to evidence impact
- Students produce research that contributes to the arguments for Youth Work practice
What I’m proposing is that there is interdependence between CPD institutions and impact measurement that shouldn’t be ignored. Dismissing one could jeopardise the other. Below is a diagram that helps to show some of the ways that the agendas feed into one another.
As a profession we need to be really careful not to let these fantastic institutions slip quietly away. They are bastions of our Youth Work heritage and also to our future. Their role in the justification of our work seems more crucial now than ever before, so I was really heartened to see that the Centre for Youth Impact had been working with The Professional Association of Lecturers in Youth and Community Work (formerly Training Action Group) to organise a joint conference on 30th March 2015. I really hope that out of it has come plans to support each other for a long time to come.
Perhaps we can see appearing in the not too distant future a time when courses are all full and growing due to efforts in proving the amazing things that can be achieved through Youth Work. Perhaps…