On May 20th, 2022, The Rural Hub organised a focus group with nine youth workers from local youth organisations. All participants present were specialists in the youth sector and held experience in the fields of coaching, mentoring, child protection, digital media, accessibility, and outdoor recreation. The focus group was conducted to identify the current state of digital competencies amongst Irish youth workers. This sought to map the needs and interests of youth workers to develop impactful learning modules in the field of digital youth work.
From the results of the focus group, it was found that digital technologies play a prominent role in the youth work sector in the 21st century. It is evident that the young people of today are heavily immersed in the digital revolution and therefore need support and guidance from youth workers. In order to facilitate this, youth workers agreed that they need to be fully equipped to deal with the challenges an current reality of technology in today’s world. All participants felt that digital tools should enhance youth work practice rather than replace traditional methods. Therefore a greater focus must be placed on the importance of digital youth work for both young people and youth workers alike. On a national and regional level, this is an important part of modern-day techniques to council, contact and support youth. The digitalisation of youth work practices can proactively address digital media and technology to promote responsible ethics, values, and principles within the use of digital technologies. In order to implement the digital transformation of youth work, it is important for youth workers to consider digital collaboration, digital needs, updating existing policies and guidelines, digital access, and safe and accessible digital environments. It was found that it is vital to support youth workers to look broadly at the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to ensure youth engagement through digital tools, platforms, and resources. Therefore, training programmes are needed to connect digital and youth work competencies to develop engaging learning environments throughout the cycle of youth work.