The following section is reproduced from Youthwork Pathways, published by the Youth Cultural Centre – Bitola (2017) one of the the only publications that covers the history of youth work in North Macedonia.

Although youth work is often labelled as a new activity in North Macedonia, organised activities for the support of youth development have existed for many years, albeit in different forms. After gaining independence in 1991, the necessary structural and critical changes in the work with young people occurred, which led to the need to redefine the activity, a process which is still in progress.

In the period when Macedonia was a part of the Socialist Federal Republic (SFR) of Yugoslavia, youth work was practised through the Pioneers’ Centres and associations of  communist and socialist youth (SKOJ and SSO). The measures and activities conducted by these organisations involved giving scholarships, youth employment programmes and housing allocation. Through SKOJ and SSO, as the first forms of youth work, young people gained the values deemed necessary for the  active engagement of youth in society. This model of youth work was guided by the ideology of self-managing socialism. Therefore, the principle values of youth work during this period were “applying an education with a previously set goal, promoting patriotic values, volunteering, no religion/atheism, collectivism, brotherhood and unity, equality and uniformity that was typical of the existing system.”

Some of the structures in the previous state remained functional after independence was declared in 1991, but in the course of time they were affected by the processes of transformation and privatisation. The National Youth Union of Macedonia, which was the inheritor of the Union of the Socialist Youth of Macedonia, was closed. At the same time, the Pioneers’ Centres became a potential subject of privatisation, especially due to the inability of local government to take over their funding. These changes took place when the Macedonian civil sector was still in its infancy and was not able to play a more active role in creating a functional system for support of their youth.

The situation significantly changed with the initiation of the project for opening the Babylon Centres, initially on the premises of the existing Pioneers’ Centres. These centres were opened on the initiative of an Italian NGO financed by the European Confederation of Organisations that provide care and nurturing, with the financial support of the United Nations’ International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). The initial idea was to develop programmes that would correspond to the needs of children and youth to fill their time. According to the media reports from that period, the project goal was to improve the building of trust among the different ethnic groups, develop programmes to fill the children’s and young people’s free time, as well as help them with employment. The Babylon Centres offered various activities for children and youth, such as computer skills, creativity, social skills, English, debate, law and journalism. Apart from this, they also organised drug, alcohol and smoking prevention activities.

After UNICEF withdrew the funding, the Babylon Centres continued functioning with the support of the World Bank. After the World Bank completed its programme, most of the total of 23 Babylon Centres stopped working. In spite of this, the project played a major role in the development of youth work in the Republic of Macedonia. The Babylon Centres were not directly promoted as models of youth work, but their way of work had a profound influence on the approach that most of the civil associations adopted as a way to support youth development.

The absence of an autochthonous (indigenous) and formally accepted model of youth work in the Republic of Macedonia left space for the civil associations to develop differing approaches to youth work. With the financial support of foreign and international foundations, several Macedonian associations attempted to introduce different approaches to youth work, based on models from other European countries. Sharing other countries’ experiences was particularly facilitated by the launch of the European Programmes for Education and Mobility that Macedonia has been entitled to take part in since the beginning in the 2000s. As a result, youth work in Macedonia picked up elements from Britain, France, Belgium, Austria and other countries. These diverse approaches included open youth centres, youth information centres, youth street work, and providing activities for young people with limited abilities.

Another significant milestone in the development of youth work in the Republic of Macedonia was the training organised by the Centre for Non-Formal Education Triangle, in collaboration with Jönköping University in Sweden in the area of youth work. In the period between 2008 and 2011, a large number of youth workers attended the long-term training course, Fundamentals of Youth Work in the Community, which was implemented in six modules. The Proactive Youth Centres were also founded within the project, as an attempt at a sustainable model of youth work at local and national level, in order to facilitate the development of knowledge, skills and attitudes among young people, support them in the exercise of their rights and encourage them to take an active part in the community. What was typical of this programme was the involvement of youth workers, youth organisations and organisations working with youth, professors, parents and educational institutions, and the decision-makers at local/national level, in order for them to become acquainted with the benefits of youth work. The long-term initiative of The Traingle Centre for Non-Formal Education in the area of youth work resulted in the introduction of graduate studies in Leadership and Youth Work in the Community, a programme implemented in 2011 in collaboration with the South East European University. Only one generation of youth workers enrolled on the course, and after it closed down, the other activities of the Triangle Centre in this area also stopped.

The Specialised Programme in Leadership and Community Youth Work 

The most notable long-term training for youth workers was the Specialised Programme in Leadership and Community Youth Work, implemented as a 12 module course. This was an accredited programme  in line with the European Credit Transfer System. From 2002 to 2007 it was accredited by the School of Education and Communication, University of Jönköping, Sweden. The programme was divided into two levels or two semesters, each composed of six modules. Each module covered a specific topic and lasted approximately 20 – 25 hours. The performance of the programme participants was evaluated based on their attendance, participation and written assignments. An obligatory component of the course was individual support to the participants in the form of tutorial sessions. For each level, six tutorial sessions were necessary. The final component of the course was compulsory practical work that each participant had to complete. The practical work was composed of approximately 50 hours (for both levels) of direct work with young people. Each level (semester) was accredited with 30 ECTS. 

The programme covered the following topics: introduction to community youth work and personal development; the life stage of adolescence; working with individuals; working with groups; working with conflict and differences; management in community youth work; principles of community youth work training; introduction to research in community youth work; community youth work training programme: goal setting, preparation, implementation and evaluation; working with conflict and diversity;  training: practical application in actual environment; co-working and use of training materials; specific training issues: e.g. gender, violence, drugs, ethnicity, diversity. 

Source: Triagolnik web page 

A more recent surge of more serious interventions in the area of youth work started in 2012, with the initiative to recognise and professionalise youth work in the Centre for Intercultural Dialogue (CID), supported by the National Democratic Institute (NDI). One of the outcomes of this initiative was the establishment of the Union of Youth Work, as the only professional association of youth workers in the Republic of Macedonia. This initiative was followed by several other projects for the standardisation and professionalization of youth work, two of which were in the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Commission, implemented by the SEGA Coalition and the Centre for Intercultural Dialogue, as well as within the IPA Programme for Further Strengthening and Financial Sustainability of Civil Society. Thanks to the large number of activities in this area, implemented by several different civil society associations in a short period of time, the understanding of youth work in the Republic of Macedonia largely increased over this period, both in the civil sector and amongst the state and public institutions, and it also led to the creation of a climate beneficial for the initiation of specific processes for the formalisation of youth work, such as the submission of the initiative for a vocational standard for the occupation of youth worker.

The Community Youth Worker training 
The only formal education programme offered in Macedonia was the Study Programme in Leadership and Community Youth Work offered by the South East European University. The objective of the undergraduate programme was to enable the students to get the title of Community Youth Worker. This course aimed to enable and train the students to work in all government institutions at central and local levels, academic institutions and the non-governmental institutional environments of pre-education centres, pupil and student dormitories, as well as in youth clubs and centres. The studies also trained and prepared the students to work in the local community and society in general and it enabled them to learn the importance of research work. 

The programme aimed to create professional community youth workers who would be able to train youth leaders and youth workers. The programme equipped students with a reflective, analytical approach towards their work so they could work in a constructive and professional way as community youth workers and as trainers. The programme also aimed to contribute to the professionalization of community youth work in Macedonia.

Source: SEEU web page  

In 2017, the Union for Youth Work, the Agency for Youth and Sport, the Coalition of Youth Organisations (SEGA) and the Youth Cultural Centre – Bitola submitted an initiative for establishing a vocational standard for youth workers to the Centre for Vocational Education and Training. The vocational standard was officially adopted in 2018, which represented the first official recognition of one of the profiles of youth workers. Based on the vocational standard, the Union for Youth Work submitted the first non-formal education programme for workers with youth, to the Centre for Education of Adults. The non-formal education programme was verified in 2019.

In 2018, the Union for Youth Work, in partnership with the Agency for Youth and Sport and the National Youth Council of Macedonia, prepared and published two key documents: Quality Standards for Youth Work and the National Portfolio for Youth Workers. These documents were created through a broad consultative process involving youth workers, youth work providers, young people and policy makers in the field of youth, with support from the Erasmus+ Programme.

In 2020, the Macedonian Parliament adopted the Law for Youth Participation and Youth Policy. This law for the first time defined youth work and youth workers in national law. The law also defined youth centres as one of the youth services and established a responsibility for all local municipalities to create conditions for establishing at least one youth centre in the next five years. The law also named youth workers as responsible for working with young people in the youth centres. 


The history of youth work training in North Macedonia has therefore been mainly marked by non-formal short-term and long-term educational programmes for youth workers, which have not been recognised by any institution as official training for youth workers; examples include the Youth Academy implemented by the Centre for Intercultural Dialogue (CID) and the long-term training programmes implemented by the youth organisation KRIK. This type of training was mostly financed from organisations’ own resources and/or small donations, and they were delivered by staff from the hosting organisations. This training was usually focused on a specific type of youth work or different fields which involved youth work; for example, the CID Youth Academy was aimed at supporting youth leaders, while the training programmes of KRIK were focused on work with young people with disabilities.