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The Power of Residential Youth Work: ‘The greatest job in the world’

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

a group of youngsters playing football.
Is youth work the 'Greatest Job in the World.'?

Imagine ten years from now, and you're in a garage filling up your car. As you daydream about the high price of fuel you hear someone calling your name.

Across the forecourt a young woman approaches. She is well dressed, healthy and has an air of confidence about her.

“Fancy meeting you here.” she says, “You don’t recognise me do you?”

But of course you recongise her, in fact you will never forget her. She is one of the young people that you worked with as a youth worker back in 2024. She approaches and gives you a hug and you have a really upbest conversation about how her life is going. The job she has, the chance of a family and marriage, it all sounds like great.

You say “I’m really glad I bumped into you, It sounds like life is going well.”

“It is.” she says, “really well.” and she turns to walk away.

As she does she suddenly stops and turns around. Looking a little embarrassed she says. “Thanks.” and continues on her way.

You know that she speaks for a lot of people when she says that, you know that your career in the coming ten years will deserve that, why?

Because from the very outset you knew that you had the greatest job in the world.

a man wears a t-shirt that proclaims 'The Greatest Job in the World.'
The Greatest Job in the World.

You were as professional as any doctor or therapist, you honed your skills and learned a lot about yourself along the way.

Youth work in any form is a profession and should be approached as one. What on the outside might look like a fairly innocuous role goes so much deeper.

You always knew that a single line on an average day or a few words of support could change a persons entire life and you’d never know what those words were.

You had no need to know how you’d nurtured someone's growth, empowered their voices, and equipped them with the tools to navigate life's complexities.

This is the transformative power of youth work, a profession that shapes futures and builds the foundation for a brighter, more resilient society.


a surgeon with a t-shirt that says 'Problem Paramedic'
The Problem Paramedic

I coined the term ‘Problem Paramedic’ to describe the youth work teams that I train.


Because the youth workers are first on scene when a crisis hits a young person's life. They are often the first port of call when things go wrong. I believe a youth worker's job is a mental health version of a medical paramedic. To pick the young person up, to stabilise them and deliver them to long term support in as good condition as possible.

When it comes to residential youth work then you will be much more than a paramedic because you are a part of their lives on a day to day basis. You will be witness to the development of crisis, a supporter in arming the young person to handle crisis when it comes. You're the problem paramedic, the dilemma dietician, the galvanising guru. You are there before, during and after a crisis.

Youth workers are the confidants, the role models, and the catalysts for change, dedicating their daily work to nurturing the next generation.

A beautiful smiling woman holding her mobile phone
A diverse career in youth work

I know from my own experience that the realm of youth work is as diverse as the young people it serves, encompassing a myriad of specialised areas, each tailored to address the unique needs and challenges faced by youth today.

Youth work specialties like substance abuse, mental health work, cultural competency and leadership development.

Youth workers will need to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to tackle a wide range of issues.

If your like me then be prepared to allow youth work to teach you so much about yourself. Prepare to be inspired and humbled by the resilience, creativity, and potential that young people possess.

A Peek into Youth Worker Training.

As you embark on your journey into the world of youth work, you might be wondering about the tangible benefits that this rewarding profession holds. Let's explore the personal, professional, and societal rewards that come with dedicating yourself to the empowerment of young people.

Personal Growth and Professional Development: A Journey of Self-Discovery.

My own journey started as a 10 year old kid, stood in a childrens home reception. Next to me was a bin bag that contained everything I owned. Hours later I wouldn’t even have that. With the help of numerous caring childrens home staff I navigated the care system. I left, got a job and reached the top ten in my industry. A family bereavement asked me to stop and ask that question that comes along at least once in our lives.

“Given the choice, what would you really like to do?”

The answer was easy, go back to the bottom of the ladder and start a new career.

I did that and never regretted a moment. I was lucky to work in all forms of youth work from youth clubs, to family therapy to chilldrens homes.

I learned that youth work training is not merely about acquiring skills and knowledge; it's about personal growth too.

As time passed and I matured I gained a deeper understanding of my own motivations, values, and aspirations. I think I developed a heightened sense of empathy, compassion, and cultural sensitivity, enabling me to connect with young people and families on a better level.

My communication skills improved as I learned to engage with diverse people and in tandem studied the masters of communication. These were people like Milton Erickson, Richard Bandler and Anthony Robbins.

In time I learned that this wasn't enough to become a professional. I became the people geek that I am today and you will too. I studied NLP, solution focused therapy, hypnosis and much more. I also comitted and read everything I could get my hands on until I realised I’d built a comprehensive toolkit of skills and knowledge to share with others.

An understanding of child development, adolescent psychology, and the diverse challenges faced by young people today. A similar challenge awaits anyone starting out in youth work, it's an incredibly diverse and exciting world. Young people will always remain one step ahead of us.

The field of youth work offers a multitude of career opportunities. With your specialised training and expertise, you'll be well-positioned for positions in community centres, schools, non-profit organisations, and government agencies.

If your like me you'll progress in your career, find yourself at the forefront of innovation, developing new programs, working on pilot programs and developing your won ideas.

So that's the path tand hat's the goal. That conversation ten years from now. It's not without its challenges, youth work is a job that requires a lot of mental and physical energy.

Navigating the Diverse Landscape of Youth Worker

Training: A Comprehensive Guide.

As you explore the world of youth work, you'll encounter a rich tapestry of training options, each designed to equip you with the knowledge and skills to excel in this dynamic profession. Let's take a peek.

General Youth Worker Training Programs: The Foundation

General youth worker training programs provide a foundational framework for aspiring professionals, introducing you to the core principles and practices of youth work. These comprehensive programs typically cover topics such as:

  • Child Development: Gain a deep understanding of the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development of young people.

  • Adolescent Psychology: Explore the unique challenges and opportunities faced by adolescents as they navigate the complexities of adolescence.

  • Communication and Conflict Resolution: Develop effective communication skills to engage with young people, foster trust, and resolve conflicts constructively.

  • Youth Program Planning and Implementation: Learn to design, implement, and evaluate engaging youth programs that cater to diverse interests and needs.

  • Ethics and Professional Behavior: Adhere to ethical principles and maintain professional boundaries to uphold the integrity of the youth work profession.

Experience is key to gaining these skills, in my own early years I worked for the Boys and Girls Welfare Society, they had an in-house programme of training that was excellent and free.

Aside from my own reading and study these were invaluable in building a foundation for my knowledge.

Specialised Youth Worker Training Certifications: Deepening Expertise

Specialised youth worker training certifications offer in-depth knowledge and skills in specific areas of youth work, enabling you to become an expert in a chosen field. These certifications often focus on topics such as:

  • Substance Abuse Prevention: Develop strategies to prevent substance misuse among youth, promoting healthy lifestyles and responsible decision-making.

  • Mental Health Counseling: Acquire the skills to identify, assess, and support young people experiencing mental health challenges.

  • Cultural Competency: Gain a deep understanding of diverse cultures and develop culturally sensitive practices to effectively engage with youth from all backgrounds.

  • LGBTQ+ Youth: Learn to address the unique needs and challenges faced by LGBTQ+ youth, fostering a supportive and inclusive environment.

  • Youth Entrepreneurship: Empower youth to develop entrepreneurial skills, navigate business development, and pursue their entrepreneurial aspirations.

Advanced Youth Worker Training and Degree Programs: Reaching New Heights

Advanced youth worker training and degree programs offer experienced professionals the opportunity to specialise, advance their careers, and contribute to the field as leaders, educators, and researchers. These programs typically focus on topics such as:

  • Supervision and Leadership: Develop the skills to effectively supervise and mentor youth workers, fostering a supportive and productive work environment.

  • Grant Writing and Program Evaluation: Learn to secure funding for youth programs and conduct rigorous evaluations to measure their impact.

  • Advocacy and Policy Development: Advocate for policies that promote youth well-being and influence the development of effective youth-focused initiatives.

  • Research and Evidence-Based Practice: Conduct research to inform youth work practices and contribute to the field's knowledge base.

  • Teaching and Training: Prepare to educate and train future youth workers, sharing your expertise and shaping the next generation of professionals.

On-the-Job Training, Mentorship, and Professional Development Workshops: Continuous Learning and Growth.

The journey of youth work is a continuous learning process, and on-the-job training, mentorship, and professional development workshops provide valuable opportunities to enhance your skills and knowledge throughout your career.

  • On-the-Job Training: Gain hands-on experience in a practical setting, working directly with young people and applying your theoretical knowledge to real-world scenarios.

  • Mentorship: Seek guidance from experienced youth workers who can provide personalised advice, support, and feedback as you navigate the profession.

  • Professional Development Workshops: Participate in workshops, conferences, and online courses to stay abreast of current trends, best practices, and research findings in youth work.

Conclusion: Embracing the Transformative Power of Youth Work

As you've journeyed through the multifaceted world of youth work, you've witnessed the profound impact that this profession has on the lives of young people, communities, and society as a whole. Youth worker training is not merely an academic pursuit; it is a calling, an opportunity to make a tangible difference in the world, empowering young people to reach their full potential and shape a brighter future.

As you embark on this transformative journey, embrace the challenges and celebrate the triumphs. Remember, every interaction with a young person has the potential to make a lasting impact, shaping their path and contributing to a brighter future.

I hope your inspired to join the ranks of:

The Greatest Job in the World."

If this article has sparked your interest then please feel free to enjoy some of the free training I provide on my website at

Subscribe to the podcast - The Action Factory Podcast

Listen to the free audio course - NLP in residential youth work.

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