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Vital youth services celebrated at special event
1st Feb 2024

The Somerset Youth Work Alliance (SWYA) of voluntary and social enterprise organisations held an event in Taunton celebrating youth work last week.

The Celebration of Youth Work marked the achievements of 28 newly qualified youth workers and reflected on the impact and aspirations of youth organisations in Somerset.

Over 50 people attended the event, including representatives from youth work organisations, charities, funders, local councils and the ICB, as well other supporters of youth work.

The SYWA, facilitated by Spark Somerset, is working together to achieve its vision of a high quality, co-produced and inclusive youth work offer in Somerset. It offers a range of free training, from introductory courses to degree-level apprenticeship for those who wish to move into leadership and management. This training pathway makes youth work a valued, rewarding, and supportive career choice for people in Somerset. 

Gareth Williams, a Youth Worker at Minehead Eye, received a Level 2 Qualification in Youth Work and was presented with his certificate at the event. He said:

"I am over the moon to have qualified in Level 2 Youth Work and am looking forward to starting the Level 3 qualification soon. 

"It's amazing to state that I'm a qualified youth worker and can make a positive difference to the lives of young people in my community. It's something I'm really proud of and hope to do more of in the future. 

"The course has given me the skills and confidence to support young people and help them access the opportunities they deserve."

Councillor Heather Shearer, who presented the certificates alongside a former learner said:

"For too many years now youth work has felt a bit like the forgotten service. When austerity hit local authorities 10 or so years ago, funding was cut and many doors were closed - but the need and potential benefits were all still there.

"However, I am an optimistic soul and this wonderful event showed me that I was right to be so. It was a testament to the Somerset Youth Work Alliance and their remarkable work to create a hub for all the charities in our county that provide youth services.They have developed a network that trains youth workers, shares best practice and collaborates to provide the best and widest support possible, all driven by a clear passion to listen to the voices of young people."

The SYWA, made up of 16 partner organisations, is now looking for new members, and the event was used to showcase their work and gather support and pledges from attendees.  

Tash Scully, Director of the Somerset Youth Work Alliance, said:

"What a wonderful event and opportunity to come together and celebrate our newly qualified youth workers, who are continuing to provide vital support for young people in Somerset. 

"Over the last two years, the Alliance has supported 45 people to undertake formal training and gain qualifications in youth work, many of whom started out as users of youth services themselves.

"In addition to training, we are working to support and map youth work provision and provide support and expertise. We represent members regionally and nationally to ensure the needs and voice of Somerset are recognised and heard. 

"We invite other youth work providers to join us as we continue our work to create a strong and sustainable youth work sector in Somerset.

If your organisation is involved in youth work in Somerset, then we would love to hear from you. You can learn more and get involved here.