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Equal Opportunities and the JNC

Posted on Tuesday, October 02, 2001

In the last workforce survey undertaken into youth and community work (Jardine 88) it was revealed that over 13% of full time qualified youth and community workers were black and about 55% were women. Anecdotal evidence shows that these figures have risen since then. Part time workers in this area outnumber full time workers still by 8 to 1. In a 1990 HMI Report it was revealed that 54% of qualification students were women and 26% were from minority ethnic groups. In 2000 National Youth Agency research showed that 18.6% were black or Asian and 61.9% were women and 8.3% were disabled students. 32.3% of students had entered by a non standard route. These high figures come about because of years of campaigning by CYWU and the progressive nature of the professional endorsement structure in the work outlined below. The JNC can be very proud that by retaining control over the endorsement criteria for training courses, it has balanced access to Higher Education by working class students with very high standards.

The Joint Negotiating Committee for Youth and Community Workers (JNC) now covers all full and part time staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The JNC was established in 1961 and is supported by all of the voluntary sector and local authority sector employers of youth and community workers. Full time workers are considered qualified under the JNC if they have completed a course which has been professionally endorsed by bodies now known as the Education and Training Standards Committees (ETS) in both England and Wales. These bodies operate by agreement between the JNC, the Department for Education and Skills and National Assembly for Wales. A similar system is in operation in Scotland through Community Learning Scotland (CLS). ETS Committees set guidelines for the approval of Initial Training Courses, In Service Training, and Part Time workers' Training through Regional Accreditation and Moderation Panels (RAMPs) and volunteer training. Students who have been on a course endorsed by an ETS are entitled to JNC terms and conditions. Part time workers who have been through a RAMP or other local recognised endorsed course of training are entitled to the JNC Part time workers' qualified rates of pay and conditions.

The significant thing about this system of professional endorsement is that because it is the product of shared expertise - workers, employers and trainers write the endorsement guidelines and undertake the endorsement - the nature of the work and the access to it through training are set according to very high equal opportunities standards. Arguably the endorsement criteria which underpin youth and community work are the most progressive in educational, equal opportunities and access terms. To become approved a training route has to demonstrate a very rigorous commitment to equal opportunities learning, policy and structure. This parallels the very clear equal opportunities objectives that underpin the Statements of Purpose for Youth Work and Community Work and the Equal Opportunities schedule to the JNC Report itself.

The existence of professional control over qualification and terms and conditions in youth and community work has enabled more workers from traditionally oppressed groups to enter the profession and ensured that training routes and employers failing these groups can be monitored and corrected. Hence the relevance of two things central to contribution of the JNC to the social inclusion agenda: the high number of black and women workers in this area of work, the increasing number of disabled, gay and lesbian workers and the 1996 JNC agreement for nationally agreed pro rata terms and conditions for part time workers.

Youth and community workers require knowledge of and skills in a variety of educational interventions as well as interagency work, the complexity of various Acts of Parliament and legal processes and the full range of education method, social policy and institutional issues. In Scotland there is a four year degree requirement for youth and community workers. This is the case in most countries throughout Europe. Historically the best employers in this sector have seen JNC qualification as essential. Concepts of equality include commitments to quality; this is best assured through peer endorsed qualification. This position is backed up in employment law. Several cases have demonstrated that a qualification requirement is consistent with anti discriminatory legislation and that it is not illegal to pay a worker with a qualification more for performing the same work as a lower paid unqualified worker. Insistence on qualification is in fact at the heart of creating improved equal opportunities.

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