Discovering the youth sector: a blog by youth work novice Charlotte Little

7 Nov 2017

Before being thrown into the world of youth work, I had very little knowledge about the youth sector. 

I knew that I wanted a job that was meaningful, fulfilling and impactful and I thought working with the National Youth Agency would be the perfect opportunity. I have learned more in the past six months than I have throughout school, sixth form and university. I have soaked up as much as I can about youth work and what it means. 

Before starting my journey at the NYA, I worked for a digital marketing agency where the work was less focused upon people, but instead on processes, efficiency and clients. These two worlds were completely different and I knew I had a challenge ahead of me!

What I have learned

My role of a Peer Facilitator is to train young people in finance skills on the My Money Now programme using youth work to help them understand and absorb the information.

 I have learned that the work I do is valuable and makes a difference to young people – it may sound clichéd but actually working ‘face to face’ with young people has been such a rewarding and positive experience. I’ve noticed myself picking up and valuing ‘small changes’, which to young people can be HUGE.  Before being a part of NYA, I used to always strive for big results, because that was the environment I was used to, and didn’t really see the value in small, but very significant changes.

I can see now that youth work is essential for young people because it provides an opportunity for them to develop and grow in a safe space – this will lead to better decision making, increased confidence and most importantly a voice.

What has been valuable?

I think the first thing which has been really valuable to me has been working towards the Youth Work in Practice Award.  I have learned about the youth sector as a whole and the skills needed to work successfully with young people. It helped me to identify areas I am less confident in and look at how I can develop these practical skills. For instance, my knowledge around safeguarding was initially very limited, yet now I feel confident about it and the necessary procedures.

I have also taken part in ‘Adolescent Brain Training’ which has been very beneficial, especially in my role of working directly with young people. It has opened my eyes to the ‘teen brain’ and really given me knowledge around young people and their brain development during adolescence. It has made me incredibly mindful and aware that young people have a lot going on – it is a challenging and confusing time with a lot to think about, and it’s our job to connect and get through to them.

Learning about the science behind adolescents’ behaviour makes so much sense as it allows you to connect up the dots – why might a group of young people not be engaged? How can we as facilitators create an environment where young people feel safe, confident and want to engage? These are the questions I ask myself whilst delivering the My Money Now programme. At the end of the day, we want young people to gain as much as possible and take knowledge away with them.

Making a difference

Being a Peer Facilitator has already taught me so much, not only about myself but about how valuable working with young people can be. It has also allowed me to draw upon other areas I am interested in and passionate about, such as mental health in young people. There is so much scope and diversity with youth work it’s an exciting place to be, especially with ongoing projects which all work with young people in different ways. My role here at NYA has definitely pushed me outside my comfort zone, but I am learning that I can respond to the challenge, even if at times it can be scary!