Careers: Youth centre manager

The Myplace youth facilities programme is creating new opportunities for managers. Andy Hillier reports.

What does the job involve?

The manager will have day-to-day responsibility for the running of the youth centre or club. They will manage staff, oversee training and development opportunities, decide which services and activities to offer, and seek potential sources of funding. It is also their role to make sure the work of the centre does not go unnoticed. They therefore have to form close ties with funders, local officials and politicians as well as the media.

Other duties include ensuring the centre has proper safeguarding arrangements in place.

Youth centres are usually run either by charities, faith groups or local authorities. There are no precise figures about how many youth centres there are in England, but membership bodies Clubs for Young People and UK Youth have a combined total of around 10,000 youth clubs and youth groups.

Is this really a good time to become a youth centre manager?

There's no denying that these are challenging times for youth centres across the country. Cuts in central and local government funding have hit the youth sector hard. A study published by CYP Now and the union Unite earlier this month revealed that 95 per cent of local authority youth services face cuts, with youth clubs hit the hardest.

But there is some good news. In December, the Department for Education confirmed that it plans to continue funding the Myplace youth centre programme. It pledged to invest £134m in the 57 centres yet to be completed. In total, 69 centres will be built or refurbished by 2013. A number of these centres are now nearing completion and are recruiting senior staff.

What qualifications do you need?

There is no set qualification but applicants will need to have a good knowledge of youth work practice. The most widely recognised qualification is a Joint Negotiating Committee-approved degree or postgraduate degree in youth work. The Children's Workforce Development Council has also run a youth leadership programme to prepare staff to take on senior roles.

Youth centre managers will usually need to have several years' experience of working in a relevant setting. This could be either running a club or holding a senior youth worker role.

However, some centres do welcome applications from candidates who don't have a youth work background but who have a proven management track record. They will need to demonstrate an interest in working with young people through volunteering, for example.

What are the main challenges of the role?

Ensuring that a youth centre provides an enticing environment that young people want to attend regularly can be tricky. Young people will tend to form tight friendship groups at clubs and once members move on, others might stop attending as well. Reaching young people from the most disadvantaged groups can be challenging too. The most marginalised groups tend to shun organised activities.

Raising funding in the current financial climate is particularly hard. Youth centre managers need to become adept at securing money from a wide range of sources such as local businesses.

What are the rewards of the role?

Youth centres help young people to broaden their horizons, make friends, become active members of the community and learn valuable skills. They also provide young people with a place where they can turn to a trusted adult for advice about a range of problems. As centre manager, you'll be at the forefront of helping young people to negotiate the tricky transition to adulthood.

How much can you earn?

Salaries vary depending on the size of the centre and its location. A youth centre manager post at the Wallsend Boys' Club recently offered a salary of up to £35,000 a year. The post of chief executive of the Manchester Youth Zone - one of the Myplace-funded centres - was recently advertised as paying up to £55,000 a year.

Managers will need to be prepared to work antisocial hours though, as clubs are generally open in the evenings and sometimes during the day at weekends.



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