“They’re asking for their voices to be heard and their contributions to be recognized, but they also need our support to make that happen,” Kim said.
That’s why UNICEF is helping to introduce the concept of ‘youth work’ in Thailand as a tool to help young people develop socially and participate in decision-making.
“Youth work as a professional sector is a new concept in Thailand,” said Vilasa Phongsathorn, adolescent development officer at UNICEF Thailand. “Under the umbrella of social work, youth work means creating opportunities for young people to make their own decisions, shape their futures and develop the skills to meet the personal and social challenges they face. Mentoring or after-school programmes, sports or recreational activities as well as social activism are all part of youth work, in which young people can participate and develop themselves through “out-of-school” learning activities. .
Youth work is not just crucial for young people in detention centers like Max – the challenges presented by COVID-19, the aging of Thai society and the rise of automation also underscore the need for youth work. nationwide, added Vilasa.
During the webinar “Catalysing Youth Engagement in Thailand: Knowledge Sharing Seminar with Global Experts on the Concept of Youth Work” co-hosted by UNICEF and the Thailand Professional Qualification Institute (TPQI), experts shared their experiences in implementing youth work in their countries. They also discussed how best to introduce youth work into Thailand’s social, cultural and political context.
Professionalisation will be crucial for the development of youth work, said Tim Corney of the University of Victoria and the Australian Youth Workers Association. This can help improve the quality and safety of youth work, regulate youth work professions and ensure that young people themselves can benefit, he noted.
Sara Sušanj from the Delta Association, a civil society organization in Croatia, added that the regulation of youth work as a profession will help to establish quality criteria and a code of ethics as well as work programs for youth in higher education. This will enable youth workers, who work to help young people reach their full potential in local charities, faith groups or social services, to develop professionally. In the end, “young people will benefit the most”, Sušanj said.
What could youth work look like in Thailand?
Youth work is different in every country. As Thailand builds its own youth work identity, a clear structure of cooperation between all levels and stakeholders will be important. To professionalise youth work, experts agree the best approach is localization – for which “we need to take into account the realities of Thailand and its young people in the 21st century”, said Williamson.
UNICEF partners with TPQI to develop a common understanding of youth work and professional standards for its practice in Thailand, providing youth workers with specialized knowledge, skills and values to work with and for young people in their community, especially the most marginalized.
Miss Oh, a social work student and advocate for stateless and migrant children in Thailand, noted that by differentiating youth work from social work, the diverse needs of marginalized young people could be better understood and addressed.
“I think co-creation and a youth-centred approach is what differentiates youth work from social work. Professionalizing youth work means making work with young people more effective.
Case studies from other countries show that the youth work sector in Thailand will need to speak with a clear and united voice if it is to achieve professional group status and receive crucial political support. Fortunately, one of the main strengths of youth work is its emphasis on partnership, linking young people to different sectors, such as the local community, social services and formal education.
In Singapore, youth work is supported by the government through the National Youth Council as well as the non-governmental sector. It is practiced through a range of informal learning activities such as rehabilitation, street outreach, sports, arts and volunteering.
Malaysian experts shared the view that youth work should primarily be youth-to-youth. “We help young people develop – from addiction to [becoming] interrelated with adults,” said Ismi Arif Ismail, an academic specializing in youth work from Universiti Putra and UCSI University Kuala Lumpur.
In Finland, youth work services are integrated at policy level. “Youth work is also mentioned in the National Core Curriculum as one of the cooperation partners for schools,” said Tomi Kiilakoski from the University of Tampere.
In all three countries, youth work is academically recognized, with university-level degrees and diplomas offered.
In Austria, youth work occupies a prominent place in civil society and often involves political activism. Most youth organizations at local, regional and national level have well-designed structures. The Federal Youth Representation Act is the basis for financial support of youth work and the establishment of the Austrian National Youth Council, which has “a say in all important political decisions”, says Wolfgang Rauter , youth work practitioner.
Sharing her perspective on how youth work can grow in Thailand, migrant youth leader Oh said our mindset needs to change, both for adults and young people.
“When young people propose their ideas, it is not a sign of disrespect towards adults. The world is changing, and we must change too. We need to look at things from the perspective of young people, and young people also need to understand the worldview of adults.
“A lot of things in Thailand are run by adults, but young people can be more involved, for example, in policy-making. They are the ones who will live with this policy for the next 10 or 20 years, and youth work can offer a solution to help young people reach their full potential and participate meaningfully in society,” she said. declared.