As outlined in section 4, youth work education and training is well developed in Ireland. Youth worker training in Ireland is both professionally endorsed by NSETS and academically validated and accredited, providing some confidence in its quality. This is complemented by initiatives such as the Quality Standards in Youth Work Framework, supported by the Resource Development Task Group tasked with assisting the youth work sector to engage with and attain the standards. As a consequence, it is reported that standards and accountability have increased and there is a greater emphasis upon evidence-informed work (Dunne et al., 2014; West et al., 2014). When asked, for this study, how their youth work training had helped develop their competence, a  small group of Irish youth workers currently  working in the sector identified that their education and training had helped them:

  • reflect upon and develop their practice; for example they described how “self-reflection/reflective practice helped [me] look at my reaction to situations and examine them at a deeper level”; and how “training gave me the theory that I am able to apply to my practice and help understand my practice and why I do what I do” and “the formal training enables you to recognise where your strengths and weaknesses are and what approach works best for you as a youth worker.”
  • enhance their confidence, skills and knowledge; for example, they described how it gave them a “wider societal concept of the issues affecting young people and a deeper knowledge”; it had “developed [their] language framework and confidence to advocate and support young people” and built their ““confidence …through linking theory to practice”; and
  • increased their status, helping ensure that as youth workers they were “given the professional credit and recognition it [the youth work profession] deserves.”

Despite these strengths, weakness have also been identified in youth work in Ireland in reaching some groups of young people, such as young people in rural areas and young people from minority groups (Dunne et al., 2014).