By Patricia D. Gill, Senior Program Associate & Shaina Cook, Program Coordinator at the Institute for Educational Leadership
Great things can happen when people from different sectors collaborate. This is particularly true when working with youth and workforce development—an area of work that requires a unique blend of resources and expertise from public and private organizations, nonprofits, local and federal governments, foundations, and other groups in order to be successful and effective.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) calls upon youth service professionals to work together, across sectors, to support all youth as they enter the workforce. With a particular emphasis on serving our most disconnected youth and youth with disabilities, WIOA encourages the growth of critical areas such as career preparation, career guidance and counseling, and career pathways—growth that can only happen when we work together.
While WIOA’s message about supporting disconnected youth is clear, there is no cohesive professional development or training system through which youth service professionals can receive the education and skills they need to effectively help youth as they enter the workforce. There are no credentials, no certificates, and no way to determine who is highly qualified to do this work. There is no single path into the youth service and development sector, nor is there a common knowledge base of best practices from which to pull. Youth service professionals have the heart and the dedication to prepare youth for the transition into adulthood, but they also need the training and professional support to ensure they are doing it well.
The Youth Workforce Leaders Academy (YWLA) is an example of such a professional development and training program. Supported by a grant from the Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative and led through a partnership between the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates and the Institute for Educatio
nal Leadership’s Center for Workforce Development, YWLA is proof that critical needs can be met when people and organizations collaborate and pool local and federal resources.
YWLA is a year-long learning community that provides professional development to youth service professionals and youth workforce development providers in the Washington, DC area. Through monthly in-person learning sessions, online discussions and webinars, capstone project development, and collaborating with peers, the 15 members of YWLA’s first cadre received quality training, resources, and strategies for improving their organizations’ work in youth workforce development. When they graduate on May 28, with U.S. Department of Labor Deputy Assistant Secretary Eric Seleznow and D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman offering congratulatory remarks, these youth service professionals will have knowledge about policy and best practices, an enhanced understanding of their work and the youth they serve, and will be able to move forward as innovative leaders in their work!
- The Institute for Educational Leadership
- DC Alliance of Youth Advocates
- Developing a Professional Development System for Youth Service Professionals
- Core Competencies for Youth Service Professionals: Guiding Youth Toward Employment
- The Knowledge, Skills, & Abilities Study Guide
- Youth Service Professionals’ Knowledge, Skills, & Abilities Training Modules