What We Do
When, like us, you’ve been around for over a hundred years, it makes it impossible to showcase all of the work that’s been done. So here’s a small selection of our work to give you a flavour of the things we do and how we do them. Please contact us if you would like to know more.
Creating opportunities and changing lives
We know that youth work is transformative; it gives young people the space they need to learn about themselves, how they interact with other people and to identify their ambitions and aspirations. Good youth work isn’t a ‘soft option’ though; while we try to make sure that all of our youth work is as relevant and enjoyable as we can make it, we also aim to ensure it offers practical opportunities for young people to change their lives for the better. Between 1999 and 2000, we even enabled young people to build their own homes!
Sometimes these changes can be small and personal, like the vital self-confidence gained through group work games and discussions. Sometimes the distance our young people travel is immense, and they have been encouraged and nurtured to the point where they are able to chair high-profile conferences and interview Prime Ministers. In all cases, good youth work is the key that opens the door to personal development and opportunity. Every year, we help young people to find jobs, college places and training; not because we are contracted to do it, but because it’s often what young people identify as their main priority.
Through our Young Upstarts programme, we are able to support Yorkshire’s next generation of entrepreneurs and self-starters. Young Upstarts take part in a 12 week accredited training programme to gain the basic business skills they need to test their business ideas, build a business plan, start and run their own business. Through our trading arm ‘Youthtrade’, we aim to support our Young Upstarts well into the future.
Young Inspectors, (our innovative young people’s mystery shopping service and quality recognition scheme), gives young people the chance to learn about customer service and to become trained and accredited as mystery shoppers. Our Young Inspectors look into organisations and services intended for young people though interviews, investigation and mystery shopping to determine the quality of the service provided and give any recommendations they wish to give via a final written report. The young people who get involved in out Young Inspectors programme start with a great advantage over their peers when it comes to finding jobs in the service, hospitality and retail industries.
All of our youth work comes with the built-in option for young people to gain accreditation and qualifications if that’s what they choose. The Association has been an assessment centre for Certa since 2000, and that means we are often the first people to give any formal recognition and certification of the skills and learning of many of the young people we work with.
Taking our skills and help to where it’s needed
In recent years, councils have been closing down youth work space to save money and expecting young people to travel ever further for services. We think this is a mistake. We believe that youth work should be delivered as close to where young people choose to be as possible. That’s why we deliver much of our work on the streets or from our fleet of mobile units. For 8 years, we delivered the 5-star-rated mobile Connexions service across West Yorkshire, working with thousands of young people, over 100 secondary schools and providing a vital advice and guidance service to the hardest to reach communities in the region. Our mobiles have engaged countless young people in group work dealing with sexual health, nutrition and lifestyle choices, and drugs and alcohol training. Our innovative digital learning programme for primary schools, (featuring ‘Eddie’ our cartoon trainer), grew out of our mobile work. Our units are equipped to provide creative group work space and effective meeting space wherever it’s needed.
Our heritage of delivering high quality and groundbreaking detached youth work on Yorkshire’s streets goes back to 1971. Since 2009, we have provided street-based youth work in communities across Wakefield, Barnsley and Kirklees. Our unique StreetScene project has helped transport managers in Huddersfield to offer a creative alternative for young people gathering in the bus station. In West and South Yorkshire, we have intervened positively at the request of the police and helped gangs and groups of young people stay out of trouble with the law.
Making a difference in the community
As public agencies continue to abandon youth work, we have been trying to give as much practical help and support as we can to community groups and volunteers who are struggling to maintain voluntary youth clubs and projects. In Monk Bretton in Barnsley, (with the help of Fairshare funding and more recently the Big Lottery Fund), we have worked with the local voluntary ‘Monday Club’ to keep it open, develop the offer they make to local young people and to build the skill-base of their fantastic volunteers. As part of this initiative we have been able to work with local people to provide holiday sports events, community fairs and fundraising galas. Young people have also had the opportunity to build their own own bicycle which is just one of many activities in our ‘Adopt The Outdoors’ programme which focuses on giving young people experiences they would never normally have access to.
Our youth workers are supporting young people in Monk Bretton to devise ideas for things that other young people can do for free and leave a lasting legacy of boredom-busting activities that anyone can enjoy. Our team have brought together a great ‘toolkit’ of team building games and arts-based activities that we have tested in dozens of youth clubs and groups, and we are always ready to help voluntary groups to use them.
In Eastmoor in Wakefield, we have worked with local young people to landscape and maintain their own allotment; local gardeners helped our youth workers to teach new practical skills and show young people how to grow and cook some of the freshest and most organic food in Yorkshire. As always, growing Yorkshire’s future is our main aim, but the veggies are a great bonus!
Helping grass-roots youth work based in the community is what we were founded to do in 1904. We are proud to be still doing it today and we are always happy to hear from other groups that need a hand.
Helping young people to be heard and influence change
We have won more than our fair share of awards for our work promoting young people’s participation in the running of services that affect their lives. To most people in most walks of life, our approach makes perfect sense; help the people most affected by a service to design the services they need and to decide on their own priorities. It saves time and a lot of wasted resources to put service users in the driving seat when it comes to decision-making. But most organisations, both public and private, lack the expertise to bring young people into their strategy making safely and effectively. That’s where we come in.
From 2005 through to 2012 we led the operation of the participation unit for Leeds City Council. This enabled us to work across the city, to help the young members of Leeds Youth Council to take a prominent position in the work of the City Council and to support many schools to grow structured and effective School Councils and to tackle bullying from the ground up. We have organised the recent UK Youth Parliament elections in Leeds and achieved the highest turnout in the history of local youth democracy. Our role also involved supporting members of the UK Youth Parliament to attend national sittings and co-ordinate their work at local and regional levels.
The Association supported a panel of young people to decide on applications for over £1million of Youth Opportunities Fund grants and to work with young people in the projects that received the grants to ensure that the money was used to its maximum benefit.
We have worked closely with Leeds City Museum to help them become the first museum in Britain to achieve the National Youth Agency’s ‘Hear By Right’ standard for the involvement of young people in the management of their services. A group of young people designed and curated an innovative exhibition at the Museum in 2012; the first time that this has been done.