Case study

Community development worker — Rachel Day

Working with families of armed services personnel, Rachel provides a range of play, youth and community support. Find out how her degree and previous youth work experience made her the perfect choice for the role of community development worker

What degree did you study?

I studied for a BA Hons Youth and Community Work part time over 4.5 years at the University of Bolton, graduating in 2014.

How did you get your job?

A fellow youth worker friend told me that an opportunity was coming up to work for the Army Welfare Service. I waited for the post to be advertised, applied and got the job. My previous roles in youth work and my degree were both instrumental in me getting the job.

How relevant is your degree?

My degree is totally relevant, and without it I wouldn't have been able to apply for the position. One of the requirements of the post was for a degree obtained from a JNC-validated course. Luckily for me, the University of Bolton offered a part-time route which I was able to fit round my full-time role at the local authority where I worked.

What's a typical working day like?

My main responsibilities are to deliver play, youth and community provision to the armed services community. I work closely with the unit welfare team to ensure the programme meets the needs of the community and shares responsibility for the running of the community centre on site.  

Activities can include the delivery of clubs, working on community initiatives and projects, creating new exciting relationships and supporting existing partner community groups, recruitment, and the management and training of volunteers to support community activities.

I also provide professional guidance on community support within my area of responsibility, and this is communicated through the chain of command.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love working within the community, interacting with the range of people who live there, building meaningful relationships and learning together.

What are the challenges?

For me, I have had to learn a whole new world and culture. It's been a paradigm shift from working in the third sector with homeless young people to now working with the families of service personnel.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I have been lucky enough to have had many roles over 20 years in the youth worker sector. I have worked in schools on outdoor education programmes, as a targeted youth worker with disadvantaged young people, and in pupil referral units providing informal education to the hardest to reach.

I have also advocated for homeless young people and, more recently, worked with young people aged between 18 and 25 years old with lived experience of multiple disadvantage to co-produce a change in service delivery by a range of partner agencies.

I see myself developing in my current role and then moving into a management role when I’m ready. I believe the range of roles I have undertaken have really helped me work and engage with a diverse range of young people. I’ve always been true to my youth work values and carved out a role, even in times of austerity.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this job?

  • My top tip is to volunteer and find an organisation that fits with your values. I started as a volunteer back in 2000, which opened doors for me and set me off down a career path I am really passionate about.
  • Take every opportunity you get to learn, either through attending a course, learning from other workers or from young people.
  • I would also recommend trying a range of different skills. Even if you think you're no good, young people love learning alongside us. Examples of skills I have tried include graffiti, upcycling furniture, fixing bikes, building go-karts, computer clubs, drama and cooking.

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