As outlined in section 1, European youth work, while a diverse field, has common threads that unite it. These common threads are reflected in the commonalities in youth work training across Estonia, Ireland and Wales, such as a focus upon youth work values, principles and policy, professional skills such as facilitation, critical reflection and research, and the sociology of youth and psychology of adolescence. These common strands, with their focus upon learning about, for and through youth work are exemplified by the CoE’s (2016) Youth Work Portfolio competences[1], and reflect the European dimension to youth work education and training. In addition, as section 5 illustrates, these commonalities are particularly pronounced in Ireland and Wales, where there is mutual recognition of youth worker education and training. 

Youth work, education and training in each country also faces common challenges, such as the “professional formation” challenge, i.e. where the generic range of themes and issues/knowledge and skills needs to stop and where the specialist focus for youth work needs to start.  The school-based youth worker in a rural area may require quite a different skill set from the detached youth worker working evenings around a city centre railway station. However, there are also likely to be commonalities in the competences needed. Striking the right balance between equipping youth workers with the competences all youth workers need and enabling youth workers to develop the more specialist competences required for particular types of youth work, is a key challenge for education and training providers.

The values and principles of youth work may be considered sacrosanct (and therefore universal) but may also need to be applied flexibly to enable youth work to take place within non-traditional settings, such as custodial regimes for young offenders. At a general level, skills and knowledge, such as interpersonal communication skills and a knowledge of adolescent/youth development may apply to all settings, but setting or issue specific skills and knowledge will also be needed.  These may be developed through initial youth work education and training, and/or through continuing professional learning.

Despite the commonalities (and common challenges) there are differences in emphasis, content and delivery of youth work education and training that reflects the differences in each country’s context, outlined in section 3, and also, as the next section illustrates, differences in youth work education and training providers’ own traditions and interests. In each country, youth work education and training needs to address the demands of policy, the needs/wants of young people and the principles and values of youth work. This creative tension helps determine the aims and content, delivery and quality assurance of that education and training. As the following section outlines, funding, and providers themselves, are also important factors that shape youth work education and training.  The resultant differences in, for example,  policy priorities, funding, the needs and expectations of young people and providers, mean there are differences in the content and delivery of education and training in each country. These include differences in the type and duration of practice placements in Estonia, Ireland and Wales, as well as a specific focus, in each country, upon youth work in multicultural environments, youth and community images and art, and upon global youth work respectively, in the youth work courses in each country.

[1] For example, learning about youth work, in order to understand its origins, objectives, values and ethos, is reflected in specific youth work competences, such as relating to “young people as equals” and building “positive, non-judgmental relationships with young people”; learning for youth work, to ensure that youth workers are “experts” on youth and have a solid understanding of the contexts in which they and young people operate are reflected in competences linked to supporting and empowering “young people in making sense of the society they live in”; and learning through youth work is reflected in competences like creating “safe, motivating and inclusive learning environments for individuals and groups”.