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training and education 

Growing into our education

Jeff Reid

The Child and Youth Care field has long been filled with debate by advocates for the necessity of life experiences that can be substituted for an educational background. Even at senior managerial levels in Child and Youth Care organizations, there have been strong opinions voiced against the necessity of education when a particular candidate has valuable life experiences. Whether these opinions have been based on an individual’s own experience, personal relationships, lack of resources, or any alternative reason, there have always been proponents of life-experience over education.

I would not want a doctor to be involved with my loved ones that had not had experiences gained from medical school and supervised internship. I would not travel in an airplane where the pilot had not undergone training. In most professions there is a history of growth, where the practitioners or professionals moved from trial and error, learning by doing, to having an education base filled with theories and information. These were often gained from previous practitioners, sometimes at a high cost for the person on the other end of the experience. This is a necessary process, one which we should accept and welcome, rather than resisting.

Any one choosing to work in the Child and Youth Care field must bring with them the necessary personality traits that will keep them connected through crisis and moments of rejection by the people in whom they invest incredible amounts of energy. These personality traits, can come with life experience, but can also come through the experiences provided by a well-developed education program. While there can be no denying the value of life experience, our profession is at a time now where we should be able to accept that life experience is a valuable asset, but the education base is a necessity, a foundation upon which an individual can start to build.

The ability to understand the theories behind the importance of intentionality in interventions, the role of systems theory, human developmental issues, are necessary components for the successful Child and Youth Care practitioner to bring to the work environment. Post-secondary programs are able to offer this foundation. Many educational programs now offer some form of practice-based experience as part of the educational requirements to graduate. These create opportunity for skill development, combining the theoretical background provided by the classroom instructor with practical experiences supervised by practitioners.

Not many organizations have the time and resources to offer the basic courses that can be provided at the post-secondary level. Organizations have to focus on a particular philosophy, and how that is to be demonstrated on a daily basis. The foundation for understanding the importance of this comes from the formal educational experiences.