The new head of the Youth Service says he wants young people to have the best possible opportunities as they grow up in the Isle of Man.
Nigel Howard has been appointed Principal Youth Officer with the service, run by the Department of Education and Children.
Nigel started working with young people in 1998, volunteering for a homeless project in Yorkshire. This led him into the youth service, the YMCA, where he managed a hostel scheme, and then to a young person’s project in Hull.
A return to study followed, with Nigel attending university in Hull and Sheffield before qualifying as a youth worker, social worker and youth justice practitioner.
Nigel held positions as a social worker, youth worker and youth justice manager for Doncaster Council before moving to Sheffield Children’s Services in 2009 to set up youth crime family intervention projects.
He moved to the Island in 2013 to work for a children’s charity in fostering before spending some time in early help services for the Government.
Nigel has always worked evenings in youth centres alongside his day jobs and, since being on the Island, has worked in clubs in Ramsey and Onchan.
Nigel heads a service with a £1 million budget that operates a range of services and youth centres. These include Ardwhallan outdoor education centre, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme, the Youth Motor Project, the Youth Arts Centre, music project Soundcheck, U Count2, Café Laare, a detached youth work team, a schools-based counselling service and 70+ youth club sessions each week.
Nigel says the Youth Service contributes to the Programme for Government’s aims of ensuring young people have the ‘best possible start in life’.
‘I share the Government’s vision of making the Isle of Man a great place for the young to grow up and acquire the skills and aptitudes required for adulthood and the world of work,’ Nigel said.
‘Youth work is so much more than providing a building to congregate in. It’s somewhere they make friends, become part of a group, have new experiences, acquire skills, develop socially, emotionally and academically and feel valued, respected and listened to.’
As young people face such challenges as finding work or training, having a good self-image, keeping fit and active, peer pressure, staying safe online and substance use, Nigel said the Youth Service’s role is as important as ever.
‘The service complements work done in schools, college and university,’ Nigel said.
‘It offers meaningful activities and support that can lead to young people making good decisions, discovering new hobbies, uncovering talents and readying themselves for careers and life itself.’
To find out more about the Youth Service, visit http://iomyouth.im/ or the Isle of Man Youth Service page on Facebook.
Photo - Nigel Howard.