Transforming the young people's workforce: 3rd annual conference

Extract from SWDC logo

Kingsway Hall London, 28th January 2010 

Aiming High for Young People, the Government's ten-year strategy for young people, emphasises the need for a young people's workforce of skilled, knowledgable and trusted adults. This conference focused on how this workforce is developing as a result of initiatives to strengthen leadership and management, developing a common platform of skills and building capacity in the third (charity and voluntary) sector. It aimed to provide commentaries and expert analysis on these changes, as well as perspectives from within the workforce and the youing people it serves.


This event involved a range of organisations that have a direct interest in the training and professional development of the young people's workforce. This included, but was not limited to, the Children's Work Force Development Council, the DCSF, the National Connexions network and UK Youth. Its focus was on the need for skilled, knowledgeable and trusted adults to work with young people who are considered to face many challenges in the current climate:

1. Strengthening leadership

2. Developing the contribution of the third sector

3. Developing a common platform of skills.


A video was shown as an example of  a range of young people's perspectives. This was a teenage drama group representing the real experiences that a range of young people had had with different youth services. The young people contrasted these experiences with the  policy statements and the attributed dialogue employed by the adult professionals working with them. Although it was a dramatised account it had significant credibility. It is unclear if this video is intended for wider distribution.


Session 1: Setting the Scene

Strengthening the learning, development and support service workforce

Jayne Haywood Chief Executive, CWDC


Jayne stated the vision statement for the CWDC in which England will have a children's & young people's workforce that is respected by peers and valued for the positive difference it makes to the lives of children, young people and their families. The purpose of CWDC is to lead change in the children's and young people's  workforce so that employers and partners are able to do the best job they possibly can. There is a need for the workforce to to be able to work with other professionals and to be highly skilled. The programme is not about undermining the skills of the workforce. A central  need is to understand the voice of young people and, to this end, the organisation has involved young people in its development and governance.


CWDC is a sector skills agency and works with the General Teaching Council for England (GTC(E), Skill Active, ADCS Skills for Health, Lifelong Learning UK, National Youth Agency, and Skills for Justice, amongst others.


The programme has run from 2008. It is complex and has a large number of partners. It forms part of the Government's ten-year strategy for young people. The programme involves:


  • six million workers
  • those who work with the 13-19 year age
  • third sector capacity building
  • strengthening leadership and management
  • the move towards a common platform for skills and competences
  • a systemic change in the skills development framework
  • 'Youth Professional' status
  • Apprenticeships
  • a common foundation degree framework.



The programme includes these key strands of activity:


  • A Leadership Enhancement Programme (this has had a 88% satisfaction rating so far)
  • A Management Development Programme with a target of 5000 that has already recruited 4,500
  • A Leadership Development Programme for Aspiring Managers
  • Third Sector Capacity Building


A report has just been released on this work: A Picture Worth Millions: The State of the Young People's Workforce Report

Seeking Young People's Perspectives

Zahra Noel and Mohammed Mohamaddi, who act as Young Advisors for Waltham Forest Local Authority, talked about their experiences.


For Zara, the biggest issue was the negative attitude of professionals towards young people, treating them as a group rather than as individuals, which created barriers for young people in gaining support and services they needed.


Mohammed grew up in care and has seen a great deal of change in the attitudes of professionals in supporting and involving children and young people in decision-making in relation to the services provided for them. He stated that it was a great personal achievement to be able to talk at this conference and that this reflected the change. He concluded that the challenges for young people are much greater in the 21st Century because there was so much choice and expectation.


Questions and Discussion


It was suggested that the Scandinavian Social Pedagogue model might be useful as a coherent way forward, as this was an established model in other parts of Europe.

Another delegate stressed the importance of the need for professional qualifications and the development of a graduate profession with university-centred professional development.



Session 2: Producing strong and effective management


Panel Discussion: Development and Integration of Middle Management

  • Improving formal succession planning within local authorities
  • Making use of formal peer support networks
  • Ensuring access to specialised learning and leadership support


Steve Munby, Chief Executive, National College for Leadership of Schools and Children's Services


Steve stated that the recent extension of remit of what was the National College of School Leadership had changed the structure of the organisation, but that its core four hallmarks or principles for its activity remained the same. These were:


  • Staying close to the established knowledge of 'What works in leadership practice'
  • Not being overly theoretical
  • Staying close to target sectors
  • Applying local solutions to local problems.

A methodology of professional development in leadership was outlined:


  • "The best way to develop leaders is not to send them on a course"
  • "On the job training with peers and mentors that are credible"
  • "Exposure to national and international examples of practice"
  • "Plus time for reflection on practice".


He noted that the Directors of Childrens Services had an average age of 55, their deputies had an average of 52, and the third tier of managers averaged 51. This meant that there was the need to ensure more succession planning and to build programmes for aspirant leaders of children's services directors.


Children's Trusts should lead on the professional development of middle managers but with support and guidance from the National College.


Kevin Ford, Chief Executive FPM Training

Leading national consortium to lead the development and delivery of the children's workforce


Kevin stated that the focus of his work was to get people together to get them to think differently about the way they work. The programme is a potential community of practice with a central moral purpose that the profession took the action that was needed. In integrated working there is potentially no boundary as to who may be involved. He reported that there is a vital need for the  basic training for third sector workers. The programme was ushering in the next generation of leaders of young people's services


Questions and Discussion

Steve stated that leadership is contextual and about relationships encouraging leadership at all levels. It is not about the hero leader.


A delegate suggested that the Social Pedagogue model should have a more significant role.


Another delegate noted that integrated working requires leadership, but there may be conflicts arising from different third sector organisations who may be competing for funding. Kevin replied that contracts can be more creatively and closely specified to ensure maximum impact.


Kevin Ford's presentation


Developing leaders and managers consisted of three main programmes: LEP, LDP, and MDP. The initial target was frontline managers who numbered around 5000. The professional development format initially consisted of five days working together plus six days follow-up. This had created a national movement for change. He, too, noted that average ages of those in leadership roles are 50 for a head of service and 42 for first line managers. 80% of frontline managers were women but men dominated at the service head level.


The programme has had high levels of involvement with strong feedback on impact. The professional development was building communities of integrated practice across England. Some emerging issues were that, whilst all participants supported joining up services, there needed to be a focus on how to integrate provision. In the area of commissioning services, he suggested that the rhetoric was ahead of the practice. There were pressures on time and capacity. Restructuring and redundancy were ‘adding a churn to the system'.


Kevin stated that integration is not about structures, but it is about an ethos and a state of mind. Good leadership in such systems involved being knowledgeable and a strong advocate for young people. Such leadership would be further enhanced by improvements in the management of staff. He questioned if the Government's aim of having ‘25% of services influenced by the views of young people' was too low, and he then considered what might be coming up in terms of policy and funding. There was an estimated £175 billion annual public debt so that cuts will be imminent, but these will not be equal across all services. Work with young people is not well protected, as Universal Services are not statutory and are at most risk.

He noted that the current model of services for young people was currently a triangle of needs and wants, with complex and intensive services at the apex, then services such as the Young Offenders Team in the middle, and generalised local youth services at the bottom. A preferred model might an inverted triangle with local youth-led services supported by youth work professionals, who are in turn supported by high need services through the Local Authority and their partners. This would make services much more directly influenced by young people. 

Questions and Discussion: 

It was recognised that the lack of men in the workforce needed to be addressed as they could be positive role models.

Another question was about the need for an ethos in organisations that will respond to the professional development of staff, so that staff are enabled to implement new ideas arising from professional development.



Session 3

In the afternoon there were a range of round-table discussions.


  1. Lessons learned from delivering the Youth Work Apprenticeships in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets: Anam Hoque, Youth Work Training Co-ordinator Tower Hamlets
  2. IAG qualifications framework and LDSS: Yvonne Nolan, Director New Directions Consulting & Julie Tortise, Development Manager, CWDC
  3. Building Capacity in the Third Sector, Paul Harper, National Programme Manager, CWDC & Susanne Rauprich, Chief Executive, National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS)
  4. Voices from the Coalface - what does it mean to be a youth worker in 21st Century Britain: Don MacDonald, Senior Youth Worker, Scotswood Area Strategy
  5. Common Platform of Skills and Competences: Sue Parker, Director, Learning Etc & Marcus Isman-Egal, National Programme Manager, CWDC


The round table on a Common Platform of Skills and Competences was thought to be most relevant to readers of the TTRB, so this was the one attended.


The Skills Development Framework (SDF) is intended to be a definition of skills and competencies for integrated working within the Young People's Workforce and a description of the kind of progression that people will make through it. It is not a new set of national occupational standards.


It was influenced by the six areas of common core and is an addition to this core, focussing on transferable skills such as resource management. It builds on the common core to establish a framework of professional development through five different levels ranging from entrant to expert practitioner. It builds on some initial work by CFBT. It links the common core into the DCSF rainbow of children's services. Other models of professional development were considered and it attempts to utilise a number of frameworks with different skills and competences that are described using the language of different professions. At the heart is a statement of values from which professional development can be built using a web-based resource that is to be developed.


The SDF had to reflect Common Assessment Framework (CAF) ideas in its knowledge and understanding. At the advanced levels, management and leadership are reflected to enable flexible career progression within the youth work. It is not concerned with qualifications.


An issue was raised about pathways into and within the profession.


Questions and Discussion

There is a need to differentiate between generic and substantive professional development. This resource focuses on and makes explicit professional skills for integration.


The potential development of the Social Pedagogue role will be a new profession, and its emergence may threaten existing professions.


Suggestion for the concept of ‘Resilience Workers' who share their professional expertise to address the serious difficulties encountered by some young vulnerable young people.


Session 4- Moving towards an integrated worksforce


Towards an integrated qualifications service for those working with young people

Leora Cruddas, Deputy Director Children and Young people's Services, London Borough of Waltham Forest


Leora described how Waltham Forest Youth Services developed, based on Human Rights Principles.


She utilised the metaphor of 'salad not soup' in relation to inter-professional working, where different professional expertise is valued and brought into play at the appropriate time.


She noted that the NEET (Young People who are Not in Education, Employment or Training) reduction targets were met as a consequence of being owned by an integrated set of services where information, advice, guidance and tracking were shared. The Teenage Pregnancy rate has been reduced by 23% and a small youth-offending team has vastly increased the numbers of young offenders returning to education.


There has also been strong third sector involvement via the Youth Alliance Board based upon the Government's Aim Higher guidance. The leadership of this service has been concerned with the concept of the ‘total resource' that is available across different sectors that can contribute to the children's and young people's plan. This has then led to further commissioning based upon a gap analysis of the ‘total resource'. Work with elected members and the Local Authority executive has been developed linked to LAA and PSA targets. This has lead to an integrated workforce across the statutory and voluntary sector in Waltham Forest.


Panel Discussion : Regulating the sector for work with young people

Who is responsible for regulation (beyond social care)?

How can the third sector be given a more active role ?

What can training providers do to help?


Ruth Marriot, Chief Executive, The Zone

Leora Cruddas, Waltham Forest

John Bateman OBE, Chief Executive, UK Youth

Stephen Turner Director, Youth Achievement Foundation, UK Youth


The issue of shared data and language between sectors was discussed. There was a need for third sector organisation to audit their role and functions periodically to ensure that they continued to serve a need and were fit for purpose.


Report by:

Mike Blamires