MURAL - Maynooth University Research Archive Library

    "Youth Workers - Just "Adult Somebodies" in the Lives of Young People?" : An inquiry into Youth Workers' perspective on Professional Youth Work

    Noonan, Sasha (2020) "Youth Workers - Just "Adult Somebodies" in the Lives of Young People?" : An inquiry into Youth Workers' perspective on Professional Youth Work. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

    Download (1MB) | Preview

    Share your research

    Twitter Facebook LinkedIn GooglePlus Email more...

    Add this article to your Mendeley library


    Youth work in Ireland is evolving from a primarily voluntary activity, engaging young people in out-of-school leisure time activities, to one where there is increasing state involvement, along with a process of professionalisation which now sees some 1400 people employed as youth workers (NYCI 2012). These changes take place against a backdrop of an increased focus on pre-determined outcomes, and an emphasis on ‘targeted youth work’ (Kiely & Meade 2018). Youth workers are challenged in this context to articulate the values, the processes, and the outcomes of youth work as a particular sort of practice, based on particular sets of relationships. To date, with a few notable exceptions (Devlin & Gunning 2009, Melaugh 2015), youth workers’ voices have not been prioritised in youth work literature. This research seeks to rebalance that situation by engaging professional youth workers in a narrative inquiry process to elicit their perspectives on professional youth work. Narrative inquiry, using the terms story and narrative interchangeably, is based on the idea that narratives/stories are both the phenomenon to be studied, and the method of study (Pinnegar & Daynes 2006). The narrative process employed engaged professional youth workers in multiple conversations about before, becoming and being youth workers, eliciting ‘stories of experience’ (Connelly & Clandinin 1990). These stories were then ‘restoried’ to identify four key findings, namely: • The participants in this research can be termed ‘accidental youth workers’ because of the nature of their pathways into the professions. • It is essential that youth workers have the opportunity to discuss their practice and identity, in order for them to be, and to be seen as, a collective group of professionals. • Participants stress that youth work is distinctive as a profession in a number of ways, including the means of preparing for it, and the types of learning and knowledge required for its practice. • Finally, a growing emphasis on outcomes, evidence and value for money has, according to the participants, ‘disadvantaged’ youth workers, and youth work as a profession. Sociological perspectives on the professions, particularly the work of Evetts (2011) which focuses on professionalism as both an organisational and occupational discourse, added another dimension to the analysis. Evetts (2011) examines features of professionalism which both support and create tensions for professions working with people. I propose that a code of ethics/ethical practice, and a strong education and training infrastructure, is essential if youth work as a value-based practice is to survive and thrive in Ireland. Creating systems to support and promote youth workers’ voices is central to the success of this endeavour.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: Youth Workers; Adult Somebodies; Lives; Young People; inquiry; Professional Youth Work;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Applied Social Studies
    Item ID: 13638
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2020 10:45
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

      Repository Staff Only(login required)

      View Item Item control page


      Downloads per month over past year

      Origin of downloads