Alex Brookes, Children's Workforce Development Council

Describe your role
I am the Development Manager for Participation at the Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC). My role is split in two broad areas; I work alongside all teams at CWDC to consider meaningful and appropriate ways for children and young people to be involved in all aspects of our work and support the engagement of children and young people in the development of their workforce. I am currently working to develop ways that children and young people can be involved in the selection and recruitment, induction, training and appraisal of the people that work with them at a regional and local level through CWDC's Participation Fund and the production and collation of materials and resources. As a team at CWDC we often talk about our role being both to put participation at the heart of workforce development and to put the idea of workforce development on the participation agenda.

What makes a good participation worker?
Making sure there's room to change so there's actually something for children and young people to 'participate' with. This can often mean working more with the adults and / or organisations that are hoping to involve children and young people.

What are the barriers to involving children and young people?
For CWDC, being both a sector skills council body and a workforce reform agency, we don't work directly with children and young people but with the people who work with them. We believe that the participation of children, young people and families is essential to creating a world-class workforce. The areas discussed include necessary training and the skills, values and attitudes children and young people feel are needed by the people that work with them - some staff are initially reluctant to get involved as they fear criticism, but we ensure that participation projects lead to useful insights about how to improve the workforce as a whole and staff who have been involved are very positive about the outcomes.

What are the benefits?
There are many benefits for involving children and young people - the ability to gain a wider perspective, the less rigid and formulaic responses that children and young people can offer, the opportunity for staff to widen their own skill set etc. CWDC has adopted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in its entirety. Article 12 of the UNCRC says that all children and young people have the right to say what they think should happen when adults are making decisions that affect them, and to have those opinions taken into account. The decisions and plans made about the development and reform of the children's workforce impact on the lives of children and young people so as well as participation work being beneficial to what we do it's also something that we need to do!

What tips do you have for effective participation of children and young people?
Ask other people! Ask children and young people how they want to be involved, in what format, and for how long. Too many times we as adults try to arrange activities and opportunities for children and young people, which aren't what they want to do! Also, asking organisations and agencies that are further along what works and what doesn't work. We are constantly searching for ways of engaging and involving children and young people meaningfully and appropriately in our work and we are delighted to work in partnership with others on their journey.

What is effective participation?
For CWDC, effective participation means ensuring the structures, resources and processes are in place so our workforce and we can take action, make changes and be steered by what children, young people and their families tell us. Having space to change can make the difference between meaningful participation and visible but relatively pointless consultation activities.

Participation Works is a partnership of…
British Youth CouncilChildren's Rights Alliance for EnglandKIDSNational Council for Voluntary Youth ServicesNational Youth AgencyNCB