It appears that a clear agreement has been reached across Europe about the substance of youth work – not only for the young person but for the whole society on a local, regional or national level. In the last few decades, youth work’s strong link to employability has been highlighted in the stated objective to ‘develop youth work as a resource to support youth employability’ (EC, 2009: 6).

Although efforts on an European level for enhancing the capacity of youth workers continue, it is
observed that they still struggle in finding the best approach to youngsters and in coping with everyday challenges of activating NEETs. Based on disparities among Europe and on the ongoing cohesion policy, the COMPASS project aims at supporting the countries facing the highest rates of unemployment among NEETs and at equipping youth workers with tailor-made measures.

In a world of disrupting change and socio-economic uncertainty, partners from six countries – Bulgaria, Austria, Greece, France, Romania and Spain – got together and investigated in depth how to contribute to the growth and personal development of the youth workers in their countries. The quantitative and qualitative research conducted in the first stage of the project concluded that youth workers should possess a wide range of skills and competences in order to answer to the needs of the youngsters they are working with.

According to the demographic data collected, a profile of the youth workers could be described – most of the people working with NEETs are between 25-35 years old and possess a Bachelor or Master degree, mainly in Social science. A substantial number of them haven`t passed through a special training dedicated to soft-skills development.

Based on more than 200 answers in the online survey and 30 individual interviews with youth workers, the consortium created a competence model carefully adapted to the main challenges they are facing with a particular emphasis in youth workers’ skills for facilitating a career counselling and mentoring process. The competence model subtracts 6 key competences with 5 behaviours each, summarizing the specific knowledge, skills and attitudes required.

This competence framework would be the basis for the next project phases, ensuring that all the products developed will be tailor-made to the needs of the youth workers and provide cutting-edge methodologies and instruments for NEETs activation – a competence-based training for youth workers and a gamified platform for youth empowerment.