Monthly Archives: March 2013

Professionalisation of Youth Work in the Caribbean

Do you think of youth work as a profession?

I imagine many people still view working with young people, especially in communities, clubs and associations, as an informal and voluntary activity undertaken by unskilled but kind-hearted people who want to support wayward teens. On the other hand, police officers, teachers, social workers, nurses and doctors who work exclusively with children and young people are regarded as professionals, by virtue of the training they have received in their respective skill areas. Yet, these professionals have recognised the need for support from a separate cadre of workers who have specialised skills in promoting the holistic empowerment and development of young people. There are therefore unique areas of knowledge, skills and attitudes which support the role of a youth worker in:

  • Working directly with youth, individually and in groups;
  • Managing projects and programmes as well as human and financial resources, and
  • Developing, implementing and evaluating policies and plans on behalf of youth to ensure responsiveness to youth needs.

Youth work is therefore a profession. This was the premise of the recently convened Commonwealth Conference on Education and Training of Youth Workers (CCETYW) in South Africa, 18th -20th March, 2013. Under the patronage of the Presidency of South Africa and in partnership with the South African National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), the University of South Africa (UNISA) and the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP), youth workers, academics, young people and representatives of governmental and non-governmental agencies met to discuss strategies for promoting the professionalisation of youth work across the Commonwealth.

The Caribbean has been making good progress on the professionalisation agenda. With the support of the CYP Caribbean Centre and in particular, Programme Manager, Mrs. Glenyss James, three delegates from Jamaica, were able to join other Caribbean delegates from Barbados and Nevis at the CCETYW to share our experiences of advocacy for youth development work professionalisation.

Paulette Dunn-Smith of the Caribbean Career and Professional Development Institute shared the participatory process of codifying the specific competencies – that, is the specialist knowledge, skills and attitudes of the professional youth development worker – to produce a set of regionally and nationally-endorsed Competency Standards for Youth Development Work in the Caribbean. 

Terri-Ann Gilbert-Roberts reflected on the professionalisation agenda by outlining how the University of the West Indies, used the standards to develop the curriculum for the first degree-level training programme for youth development work – the BSc in Youth Development Work offered across the Caribbean through the UWI Open Campus. The new degree programme supplements professional training programmes at certificate and diploma levels by enhancing the opportunities for developing the leadership and management cadres in youth development work.

Tanya Merrick Powell of the Jamaica Professional Youth Workers Association (JPYWA) shared on the role of youth work professionals in developing the competency standards and their application to the degree programme and the work of the JPYWA in supporting professional development of its members towards improved youth development outcomes.

Were you aware of all that has been done, and is being done, in the Caribbean to ensure that youth workers are more effective in supporting youth development and youth empowerment?


The professionalisation agenda in the Caribbean continues as we seek to raise awareness of the profession and build the competencies of those who work with youth.

In her presentation in the Opening Plenary CCETYW, Terri-Ann Gilbert-Roberts reflected on the way in which the synergies among the standardisation, curriculum development and professionalisation activities have supported three positive approaches to connecting youth workers, promoting growth of youth workers and promoting excellence in youth work.

Connect, Grow Excel Approaches and Outcomes

Those approaches have produced positive outcomes in regional youth development  including supporting regional cooperation and partnership; capacity-building of higher education institutions; strengthening of the professional competencies of current and future leaders in youth development work by emphasising praxis and reflective practice in the training professionals who think AND do; and finally the production of graduates who will support a transformation in the Caribbean youth development landscape – or the “youthscape”.

Please connect with us by commenting here at 50/50 Youth to let us know where we need to do more research in relation to youth development work, professionalisation and education and training!

Looking forward to hearing from you.