Blog post

What is youth work?

To mark National Youth Work Week, Simon Williams, Senior Lecturer in Social and Community Studies at the University of Derby, talks about the rewarding role of a youth worker and why it could be the perfect career for someone who wants to make a real difference.

By Simon Williams - 5 November 2018

The aim of youth work is to facilitate and support young people’s growth, encouraging their personal, social and educational development. Youth workers are informal educators that build professional relationships with young people to support them in building a positive future for themselves and their communities.

The role of a youth worker

Youth workers usually work with young people aged between 11 and 25 years, although in some circumstances youth workers support people as young as eight.  Their role focuses on building positive relationships to support young people to develop their skills and their voice, rather than trying to ‘fix a problem’.

Youth workers provide a transformational support system, aiming to guide young people on the many complex needs they face, and prepare them to make a positive contribution to society in adult life.

Where does youth work take place?

Over the last decade, the context in which youth work is used to impact young people has seen significant change. To reflect this, students on our BA (Hons) Youth Work and Community Development degree spend a third of their study time out in the field doing a placement. These six months of work experience enable students to experience a range of diverse settings.

We believe that youth work can take place anywhere a young person is present, including: hospitals, youth hospices, youth offending institutes, alternative education environments, the fire service, army service, statutory and voluntary open access provision, multi-agency teams, and much more.

Why become a youth worker?

If you want to make a difference in the lives of young people and their families, this is the career for you. Youth work is a rewarding, varied career, where you could be working in a variety of settings – so no two days are the same.

Grace Crosby, who studies at the University of Derby, says she chose this career path as she “wanted to make a difference to young people’s lives”, and has already done so through a number of exciting work placements, including one in a youth provision in Belgium.

Youth work is a hands-on, challenging and worthwhile career, where you get to make a real difference to help young people reach their full potential.

Find out more about the Health, Social and Community Work courses available at the University of Derby.

For further information contact the press office at

About the author

Simon Williams
Assistant Head of Discipline for Social and Community Studies, Programme Leader for Youth Work and Community Development

As acting Programme Leader and Senior Lecturer, Simon Williams is has responsibility for the overview of the programme as well as development of placements as well as teaching and tutorials. Simon is also active in promoting Youth Work nationally and supporting local organisations see the positives of engaging youth workers.


View full staff profileView full staff profile