Youth: As you transition from adolescence to adulthood and the world of work, you will have many new choices, opportunities, and experiences. Sometimes, it can seem overwhelming. Don’t worry – throughout this transition process, youth service professionals can help by providing you with the information you need to make decisions, help you to think through available options, and connect you with necessary resources, opportunities and supports. They are adults who work directly with youth during the transition and workforce preparation process who have the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) needed to support youth and help them to succeed.

If you are in school, this adult might be a college advisor, guidance counselor, vocational education instructor, or special education teacher. If you are out of school, you might work with a vocational specialist, case manager, youth program worker, or rehabilitation counselor at a Workforce Center (sometimes called One-Stops), community organization, or Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) office. The youth service professional can help you complete an assessment of your abilities and interests, develop an individual career development plan (with realistic goals and steps to reach them), choose career areas and opportunities that suit your abilities and interests, and provide you with work-based learning and on-the-job training experiences. The most important thing this adult will do is communicate with you, advocate for you, and involve you in developing a plan that you direct based on your abilities, and interests. This adult will also communicate with your family, guardian, and other significant adults in your life to make sure they have the resources and information they need to support you as you make this important transition. (Sometimes, letting go can be the hardest type of “support” they can provide!). In addition, this adult will work with employers, other agencies, educational institutions, and a myriad of community organizations to connect you to all the resources and support you need to successfully transition to adulthood and the world of work. There are a lot of choices and opportunities out there and with the help of a skilled youth service professional – you will find the ones that work best for you.


1. Youth Question: Where can I find one of these adults and what do the KSAs do for me?

If you are in-school, you may want to go to the guidance or counseling office and make an appointment to see your guidance counselor or college advisor. If you are not familiar or comfortable with the guidance office, you may want to talk to a vocational education instructor, special education teacher, or other trusted adult at your school and let them know you are interested in work experience or career information. They should be able to connect you to a youth service professional who specializes in “workforce development” or connecting youth to work opportunities and information. This person will be able to help you think about some things you would like to do after high school and what you can do while you are in school to prepare for those things.

If you are out-of-school, you should be able to get information from someone who works at your local workforce center, or One-Stop (Find out where the workforce center closest to you is located). This person will be able to help you think about some types of work you might be interested in or connect you to GED or post-secondary education opportunities if you are interested.

The first step might be for you to talk about what interests you and your experiences so far. You may also take a test (or assessment) to see what you are good at. These are not tests that you pass or fail but rather are in tests to help you see which kinds of opportunities or work experiences are the best match for you. After finding out about your interests and skills, the youth service professional will talk to you about available options that are the best match for you. This could include a mix of classes, training, internships, or a work experience. You might choose to go to a job fair or on a visit to a job site to see what different work places and responsibilities are like.

Once you have talked about all your options, the professional can help you come up with a plan that is the best match for you. It will include goals and activities to get to them. Your youth service professional will even connect you to resources to help you with your plan – these could include classes, employers, assistive technology, or even money for books or transportation. Finally, the youth service professional can help you think about ways to talk to your teachers, parent, guardian, supervisor, and other significant adult about your plans!

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2. Parent/Significant Adult Question: What should I expect from the professionals working with my child? (types of things adults should know/do)

The KSAs are the knowledge, skills, and abilities that a youth service professional needs to have to work effectively with your child in workforce development. This includes information from the areas of youth/adolescent development, work development, and disabilities. The KSAs are divided into 10 Competency Areas including:

  1. Knowledge of the Field
  2. Communication with Youth
  3. Assessment and Individualized Planning
  4. Relationship to Family and Community
  5. Workforce Preparation
  6. Career Exploration
  7. Relationships with Employers & Between Employer and Employee
  8. Connection to Resources
  9. Program Design and Delivery
  10. Administrative Skills

(For a detailed list of the requirements included in each KSA Competency Area, please see the Synthesis of Competencies of Youth Service Professionals).

A professional working with your child will be able to help the youth to assess their own interests, goals, and strengths and to come up with options for their transition to the world of work. A familiarity with the individual youth’s interests, experiences, and strengths, as well as the stages of adolescent and youth development, will help the professional create a menu of opportunities, supports, and services to best suit your child. These options could include a combination of further education, training, career exploration, and work experiences. The professional should include the youth in the planning and decision-making for their future. The professional will also talk to you, teachers, employers, and other significant adults about the best ways to support your young person (including sometimes, stepping back, an “inverse support,” if you will). They should also connect you and your child to any additional resources needed for transition. To find the workforce center, sometimes called a “One-Stop” closest to you, please click here.

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Resources & References

  • KSA Chart Handout
    Identifies the 10 Competency Areas and their related requirements. Competencies include the basic competencies required to serve all youth as well as the additional competencies required to work with youth with disabilities.
  • The 411 on Disability Disclosure: A Workbook for Youth with Disabilities
    Helps young people make informed decisions about whether or not to disclose their disability and understand how that decision may impact their education, employment, and social lives. Based on the premise that disclosure is a very personal decision, the Workbook helps young people think about and practice disclosing their disability.
  • Disability Support Services
    This site provides information on transition from high school to college. Guides your transition planning. Understanding strengths, learning needs, and the support needed. Understanding legal rights.

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