Skip to main content
Business meeting to blend and braid funding streams to support program sustainability and success. Also, charts and colorful stickie notes.

Audience: Policymakers & Administrators

July 13, 2010 Publication
Jump Starts

The principles and resources provided in this overview of assessment provide a solid foundation for youth guidance and planning in schools, community-based organizations, workforce development programs, and other youth-serving institutions.


Today’s youth are not faring well in the labor market. The employment rates of young people continuously declined between 2000 and 2003, and the rate for youth ages 16 to 19 has reached its lowest point since World War II. Less educated youth and youth with disabilities experience particularly poor education and employment outcomes.

Joblessness among America’s youth, both with and without disabilities, has significant implications for the U.S. economy. When youth fail to enter the labor market, the result is reduced labor input, which leads to reduced production and output of the U.S. economy. Youth who lack work experience are generally less employable as adults. Youth earnings are positive for the U.S. economy because they lead to increased tax revenue, as well as increased consumption among young people, which raises demand throughout the economy and increases employment levels for other adult workers. For these reasons, it is important for the U.S. workforce development system to strengthen its capacity to provide effective training and preparation for young people, both with and without disabilities, so that they can enter and succeed in the labor market.

The range of settings in which youth receive workforce development services is wide and the responsibilities of the staff serving youth call for both general and specialized knowledge. Youth service professionals are often the first contact or “face” of the workforce development system. They play an important role in connecting all youth to workforce preparation opportunities and support. Youth service professionals need certain knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) to do this work effectively. Youth service professionals must not only keep pace with constant changes in the labor market, as the nation’s economy shifts and new technologies evolve, but, in addition must also keep up with the evolving needs and culture of today’s youth.

In spite of the importance of youth workforce development and the key role that youth service professionals play in this process, there is no single comprehensive system that:

  1. Outlines core competencies for working with all youth in the workforce development system;
  2. Offers trainings and courses; and
  3. Culminates in certification or a degree.

Some organizations outline competencies, others offer training, while still others give credentials or certifications. With this wide range of offerings, there is no way for programs, funders, families, or even the professionals themselves to know whether a professional has the requisite KSAs to effectively complete their very important role in the transition of youth. In order to build and maintain an effective workforce development system, it is essential to establish an effective professional development system for the youth service professionals who are responsible for shaping the future workers and leaders of this nation’s economy.


1. What are the KSAs?
2. Why are KSAs important to youth in my community?

3. What is the role of local, state, and national policymakers in creating a system of professional development for youth service professionals?

4. How difficult is it to incorporate the KSAs into the workforce development system?

5. How can we ensure that youth with disabilities have access to youth service professionals with the critical KSAs to support their transition to adulthood?

Row of orange dots.


  • 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.
  • Knowledge, Skills, & Abilities Backgrounder (KSA white paper in PDF format Document in Adobe PDF format)
    Includes full explanation of the development, validation, and content of the 10 Competency Areas
  • KSA Professional Development Assessment for Organizations and Systems – Adobe PDF Adobe Acrobat icon
    Allows organizations and systems to assess their professional development readiness and put in place the components necessary for an effective system of professional development for youth service professionals. This assessment can be used as an organizational tool or as part of a system-wide professional development strategy.
  • Breaking Down Technological Barriers
    Describes assistive technology and accessible information and gives policymakers information on federal and state accessibility legislation, laws and requirements.

© 2018 NCWD/Youth