May 21, 2019

Daniel Townsend MA Youth and Community student

My name is Daniel, I’m from Aberdare in Wales, and I’m studying the PgD / MA Youth and Community Work. I currently work full-time as a Youth and Community Officer at a charity, Willows Youth Club, and have 2 children.

After graduating with a BA in Egyptology, I had various jobs before deciding that Youth Work was the career for me. Working with young people with Autism in care, special schools, after school clubs and in a sporting capacity made me realise the difference you can make to people’s lives. Following redundancy, I studied a Level 3 in Youth Work and I haven’t looked back.

I originally didn’t set out to complete a Postgraduate Diploma or Masters course. I also wasn’t clear on whether I wanted to be more community or youth led in my studies. After discussing with academics, I felt the Postgraduate Diploma in Youth & Community Work (with JNC professional endorsement) was right for me. This two year course explores theories around building relationships, social capital and provides context through applying theory to practice. I am now moving on to my Masters which will focus on issues that affect my service.

Hanging out in Cardiff bay with young people
Hanging out in Cardiff Bay!

The opportunity to work in groups with youth and community workers from England and Wales in different practices has been very beneficial, as it challenges you to think what it is to be a youth worker. Youth work is so broad and can impact people in so many ways. One day I can be supporting a young person through Youth Mayer, the next I can be in a college informing young people about knife crime and drug use. The job is varied and interesting with every day bringing something new and challenging.

Placements

I have worked on two different placements during the course. Both placements have been contrasting in the approaches to youth work and has provided me with a lot of professional growth.

My first placement was at Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council Youth Service within student support, delivering a Personal and Social Development program with young people in schools.

My second placement I was able to do in my place of work, the Willows Youth Club. Here I manage a 15 hour a week open access youth service and work across a range of youth work activities with over 250 young people from the local area. These activities have included delivering a youth forum, supporting an arts and music program, running events with the young promoters program, and snowboarding and sailing over 400 nautical miles with the Island Trust.

I’m really proud to say that I have helped support the service to achieve a bronze award in youth work. Many other projects I have supported have also been awarded recognition too, such as winning the ‘Hackathon’ in London with Microsoft and Youth Cymru. I have also helped to secure additional funding for Grow Wild – Natural Beats Project – one of many funding bids I have been involved in.

Study and support

Learning from academic staff who have similar youth work experiences like Cez James really helps you to relate to, understand, and put into context what youth and community work is all about. Cez has helped me to explore other aspects of youth work, which I have introduced into my workplace. For example, providing a space for young people to have a voice on a national stage and working within an outreach capacity. Through discussion I have now added this to my provision at the Willows Youth Club and we are already seeing the benefits. In 2018-2019, we have increased engagement with young people from 150 to 250 young people, as a result of adapting our service through reflection within my studies.

A youth club visiting McDonalds
Selfie time at McDonalds!

It’s been tough juggling full-time work with study and family time. My partner is also studying at university so it’s a busy time for us both! It’s not been the easiest but the university staff have been very supportive and compassionate, whilst still providing me and other students with structured delivery. Tutors have been very helpful to take the time with me to discuss topics that I initially struggled with.  

The rewards have outweighed the tough times and through studying this course, I have been able to make a difference to young people’s lives and the charity I work for, which is priceless.