Youth Worker Community

Who are Youth Workers?

Youth Work Central is a resource for ALL youth work practitioners.  These professionals work with youth to promote developmental outcomes.  They range from entry level direct service staff to supervisors and program managers, and can have a focus or specialty in areas such as:

  • sports
  • recreation
  • youth development
  • school settings
  • informal education
  • child/after school care
  • environmental education
  • vocational training skills
  • group work
  • social work
  • probation
  • prevention
  • police and casework/assessment
  • arts and arts education

They can work with youth in structured, semi-structured or unstructured (outreach/street worker) settings.  Simply, youth work professionals are adults who impact the lives of youth.

Our definition of youth is broad but generally refers to people between the ages of 12 and 21.  Youth workers work with these youth in a variety of different ways.  They are: staff for out-of-school-time programs, peer leadership adult advisors, teachers, leadership-level staff of youth-serving organizations, social service personnel, work-force development staff, community policing officers, etc.


Core Competencies

“Core competencies are the knowledge, skills, and personal attributes youth workers need to work effectively with young people.”
– Academy for Educational Development


Identifying core competencies is an important step in building a comprehensive professional development system for youth workers. Core competencies are the foundation of structured professional development programs and some higher education programs. They can also help individuals examine their own skills and knowledge and identify areas of need for further development.


Youth workers can build and strengthen core competencies in a number of ways, including:

Training: Competency-based, topic-specific, or practical
Education: Higher education and self-directed learning
On the job: Experience-based learning and problem solving
Mentoring: Learning and receiving guidance from experienced practitioners
Other: Conferences, forums, site visits, etc.


The BEST Initiative is an example of a systemic approach to professional development that focuses on specific strategies for gaining the skills and knowledge youth workers need.