We are in the process of recruiting two new workers to join our Participation Team. Nothing particularly noteworthy in that; as an organisation we are always looking for talented youth workers and several times each year we will be looking to take on new blood. So what’s the big deal this time around? The difference in this recruitment drive has been the sheer weight of numbers of applicants. I’ve been involved in the selection of youth workers for some 20 years and I’ve never known a response like this one.
Don’t get me wrong, from my perspective this is a good thing. The Youth Association, like any organisation that works with and for people, ultimately depends on the quality of the staff that it can find and keep. So the bigger the choice, the better the chance of finding long-term-5-star-talent; the manager in me can’t help but be pleased to have the pick of the bunch. The trouble is, the youth worker in me can’t help but be worried about what this means for the state of youth work at the moment and how colleagues are viewing their future in this field.
Let me put this into context with a few easy numbers. Last year, we advertised our jobs across all the high-profile youth work media and we typically sent out 30 application forms per job. Of those, maybe 10 would be returned and we would have a field of say 6 or 7 candidates that (on paper) could do the job; easy-peasy, call all of them in for interview and find the best. This time we sent out over 200 application forms and 104 have been returned. The vast majority of these candidates are youth work specialists, not speculative applicants trying to escape unemployment or dead-end jobs in other industries. Most of our candidates already have youth work jobs in charities or local authority youth services. So why are they so keen to join us?
We do offer better terms than most employers in the field and we always try to create interesting jobs that are sustainable and offer great prospects for progression. But I’m not going to be smug and think that this is all about us. After all, I would have said the same things last year, so that can’t explain a 1000% increase in colleagues wanting to join us. What I am starting to feel is that this is a clear reflection of the levels of fear held by many youth workers on the ground; fear that their own jobs and futures are hanging in a balance that will become increasingly clear after the Election on May 6th. Take heart folks, youth work has survived all of this before in the 1940s and grown stronger from the experience. I’m not saying it won’t be difficult, but good youth work will always show its worth in the end and the electorate knows it’s more necessary now than ever before. In the meantime, give us a call. We’re always looking for a rising star.