By Joe Saunders

“You have to see it, to be it” is a strong motto for those seeking social change. Whether it’s sport, business or politics, all walks of life need diversity at leadership level if they are to be truly inclusive.

THE power of role models is particularly influential on young people and there are concerns that Ireland’s youth work sector has not widened the ethnic diversity of its staff to reflect the wider changes in Irish society.

The extent of this lack of progress is about to be measured by a new study commissioned by the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI).

The research, due for completion in November, aims to address the dearth of research on the profile and experience of minority ethnic youth workers and volunteers working in the youth work sector. 

It will examine the level of ethnic diversity amongst students attending youth work courses under the North South Education and Training Standards (NSETS) framework and will analyse the experiences of minority ethnic students in placements and in the workplace after graduation. 

The research will also gather ideas and recommendations to encourage those from ethnically diverse backgrounds to pursue a career in youth work. 

The NYCI says this study is vital and that it will provide “an evidence base to inform the development of youth work policy and practice and it will also help inform the youth work response to the specific needs of minority ethnic young people.”

The low levels of participation and inclusion of ethnic minority staff in paid youth work positions was previously flagged in the 2017 NYCI report ‘Making Minority a Priority’.

That report concluded: “It seems that minority-ethnic young people and their parents are less likely to aspire to youth and community third level qualifications and careers and as such are more likely to be involved in youth work in a voluntary capacity.” To read the full report, click here