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"In my own life, I had experienced youth work offering young people experiences and values..."

SYWO set out to look at who is involved in youth work, what they do and why they do it. This month, Tom Wylie is our profiled! person...

Job: Chief Executive, National Youth Agency Location: Leicester Time in post: 5 Years

(SYWO) Can you give us an overview of what you do in your work?

(TW)  I manage England’s leading national development agency for youth work.  The Agency provides a range of services for those who work with young people: publications, developmental projects, grants, and seeks to influence policies about young people.

What do you think made you go into it?

I went into youth work because, in my own life, I had experienced its potential for offering young people new experiences and worthwhile values. 

Can you tell us about a 'high point' in this work? 

Recently, publishing a new set of standards for promoting young people’s active involvement in local democracy – and backing this up with a range of exemplary projects e.g. YouthBank; Philip Lawrence Awards; the ‘Getting Connected’ curriculum.

How about any low points?

The failure by successive governments – now being belatedly rectified – to support good youth work.

Do you think there is any sort of pressure that comes with the job you do?

The need to balance competing priorities in deploying staff and resources across a whole range of desirable activities… ‘do more on anti-racism… on rural issues… on asylum-seekers…. on the arts….’

What kind of skills do you use in everyday practice?

  • Clarity of goals

  • Good expression in writing and speech

  • Influencing others

Do you think your work is about change? If so, what kind of change do you think you are involved in?

Changing the policies of major institutions, including those of government, and the practices of youth workers and managers.

If you have three wishes for the young people/communities that you work with/society in general - what do you think they would be?


  • Young people should have a good quality of life now, and not just be viewed as ‘future citizens’;

  • Young people should be valued and praised, not demonised;

  • Those who work with the young should have their contribution better recognised.

There are students undergoing training at the moment to become qualified youth and community workers. What advice would you give them?

That they need to concern themselves with turning theory and understanding of social issues into specific, effective, intensive work with young people

That youth work is about helping young people endlessly to re-frame their situations and supporting them towards positive outcomes.

Tom took part in our profiles exercise. If you'd like to have a go, find out how to, HERE.

Next month: Jaiwanda Patel, Responsible youth worker in Leicester

Also in this section:

Become a profiled! person

Other profiles:

Alix Arnoux

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