I was sitting in my local smoky
cafe the other day, ignoring a strong cup of coffee which was fast going cold. I
listened intently as my colleague reflected on her experiences as a field
This person was bullied and
messed around by a line manager who was overtly sexist and thuggish. She was
left to supervise and line manage other students and felt thoroughly let down. I
should have been really shocked and surprised at this treatment, but I found
myself just nodding - half angered, half not-surprised. How sad is that? What
made the situation even sadder was the courage that a colleague of hers took in
advising the sending-University to discourage future student placements at the
agency. Two years on, and a new student is there as we speak.
I have been very lucky with
two outstanding field practice placements. The first year was spent with a
national charity, heaped with resources and buzzing with work. The final year
was spent with a brilliant, innovative and creative community centre (with no
money, but a lot of human resource). I had a great supervisory relationship on
both occasions, and have benefited immensely from the work that went on.
That said, I hear stories
everyday about people having bad experiences on placement. Ok, so its not always
a corrupt worker who treats staff members badly. Sometimes it can be down to a
centre not being equipped to handle the student - money and time being large
factors. I hear of students who couldn't start projects because there wasn't
even enough money to put up front (statutory sector) and students who are
embroiled in disputes around who is to blame when they are assaulted on
The new campaign launched by
the CYWU and students (see
story) is encouraging. We should all rally behind their efforts, sign up and
support this most enthusiastic cause. After years of government under-funding,
this Labour administration has begun to realise the value of youth work (i.e.
Connexions). Yes, there are strings attached, and for sure, there could be a
loss of philosophy. This is bad, but at least youth work is on the agenda after
years of neglect.
In response, the government
needs to resource training. There needs to be a commitment that placements will
receive government funds to make placements a quality environment.
We don't get air time on the news like major
government run public services, so it could be that this campaign will be
laughed down by Ministers. However, the more people who sign up - the more
powerful the impact will be. Equally, and I'm not trying to do the recruitment
work here, I think that people should join the union and show that there is a
united force behind youth workers, and not just youth work.
In some ways, it was sad to
see such a small turnout at the CYWU student conference. However, the small
numbers generated both high energy and commitment. The post-conference euphoria is over now and those students are still
eager to start a campaign. We owe them our support.
more information, contact the Community and
Youth Workers Union or