Youth Service Professionals

compass on a map


Materials developed by NCWD/Youth are organized around what young people need to be successful in the workplace.  The applicable literature suggests that all youth need:

  • Access to high quality standards-based education regardless of the setting;
  • Information about career options and exposure to the world of work; including structured internships;
  • Opportunities to develop social, civic, and leadership skills;
  • Strong connections to caring adults;
  • Access to safe places to interact with their peers; and,
  • Support services and specific accommodations to allow them to become independent adults.

There are five categories, called Guideposts for Success, which can help steer families, institutions and youth themselves through the transition processes.  These Guideposts are built on the following underlying assumptions:

  1. Highest expectations for all youth, including youth with disabilities;
  2. Equality of opportunity for everyone, including nondiscrimination, individualization, and inclusion and integration;
  3. Full participation through self-determination, informed choice, and participation in decision making;
  4. Independent living, including skill development and long term supports and services;
  5. Competitive employment and economic self sufficiency, which may include supports; and,
  6. Individualized, person-driven, and culturally and linguistically appropriate transition planning

The Guideposts address both what all youth need, as well as the additional specific needs for youth with disabilities.

The first Guidepost for Success is School-Based Preparatory Experiences NCWD/Youth has defined those things that are necessary to ensure that youth participate in and succeed in a high quality educational system, which include:

  • Academic programs based on clear state standards;
  • Career and technical education programs based on professional and industry standards;
  • Access to and supports from highly qualified staff (including both teachers and transition counselors);
  • Access to an assessment system that incorporates multiple measures of student learning; and,
  • Graduation standards that include options. 

In today’s society, all learners, including students with disabilities, need an education that provides access, participation, and progress in the general education curriculum.  To ensure such access, curriculum and program options must be based on universal design of school, work and community-based learning experiences. 

Career Preparation & Work-Based Learning Experiences, the second Guidepost, are supervised programs sponsored by an education or training organization that take what you learn at school and at home, work and apply it to the world of work.  These experiences include:

  • Career assessments to help identify students’ school and post-school preferences and interests;
  • Developing the soft skills (e.g., being on time and dressing properly) necessary for success in any job;
  • Exposure to postsecondary education options;
  • Visiting different job sites to see what a normal day at work looks like;
  • Shadowing an employee during his/her typical day of work;
  • Participating in internships (paid and unpaid); and,
  • Exploring self-employment. 

Research shows that Youth Development & Leadership, another Guidepost for Success, are important components of effective youth programming.   Youth development is a process that prepares young people to meet the challenges of adolescence and adulthood through a coordinated, progressive series of activities and experiences which help them to become socially, morally, emotionally, physically, and cognitively competent.

Connecting Activities provide necessary support services for youth and enrich program content, including academic tutoring, adult and peer mentoring, assistive technology, transportation, benefits planning such as comparisons of subsidies and non-competitive wages and fringes, health maintenance such as mental health counseling and physical therapy, and post-program supports such as structured arrangements in post secondary institutions and adult service agencies (e.g., Centers for Independent Living) and connections to other services and opportunities (e.g., organized recreation such as sports and leisure activities).

Family Involvement and Supports, the final Guidepost, recognizes what administrator and youth service professionals know -- youth need family members and others who have high expectations for them and are involved in their lives. In addition, this guidepost recognizes that youth need access to information about employment, further education and community resources such as medical.


Working with all youth in the workforce development setting requires a specific set of knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs). These KSAs make job easier and ensure the youth you work with have the best experience possible. More information is available at our KSA page.

Program administrators need to ensure that all staff members are aware of the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to do their jobs, have the opportunity to assess themselves in these areas, and are supported in gaining the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) to do their jobs.  To most youth, youth service professionals are the "face" of the program.  Research has shown the importance of caring adults in youth lives and interactions with staff have been cited repeatedly as the reason that youth stay in or leave a program.  Program staff with the requisite mix of knowledge, skills, and abilities are better prepared to connect youth to the opportunities, supports, and resources they need to successfully transition to adulthood, including the workplace.


Mentoring is recognized as one of the most important strategies for assisting youth in making a positive transition into adulthood.  Both caring adults and peers may play a key role in mentoring.  Despite all of the information available on mentoring, there is very little about mentoring youth with disabilities or about career-focused mentoring of older youth.  NCWD/Youth has developed a Guide to specifically address the needs of youth with disabilities during their transition from school to work. More information is available in the Mentoring Guide.

Partnership Guides

As a youth service professional, you know that there has been an unfortunate lack of important connections, continuity, and consistency related to transition and transition-age youth, with and without disabilities.  Youth need the full range of services, including education, work preparation, youth development, connections to much-needed support services, and assistance to families.  NCWD/Youth has developed the Guide for Partnership Development for Transition-Age Youth to demonstrate how to build the bridges necessary to improve transition outcomes for all youth----especially for vulnerable youth such as those with disabilities---as they move from total dependency toward self-sufficiency.

The diverse and complex needs of today’s youth cannot be met by any one family, school district, government program, or private organization acting alone.  The successful transition of all youth to adulthood and a productive, independent, self-sufficient life demands coordination and collaboration across systems and across agencies, along with an integrated services approach to serving youth at the federal, state, and local levels. 

Comprehensive services can be supported either by blending various funding streams, braiding major program services, or by doing some of both.  Such strategies offer local flexibility and allow providers to focus on the needs of youth without the frequent restrictions that categorical funding streams impose. The Guide identifies potential sources of funding for the various activities listed under each Guidepost as important elements of a successful transition plan.  It is intended to provide you with suggestions on where to look for specific services and supports or for funding for specific services and supports to assist youth as they transition from secondary education to adult life. 

Useful Links:

The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth
Professional Development: Knowledge, Skills, & Abilities (KSA) Training Materials

The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth Professional Development section of the website has information about the Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA) Initiative and all of the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth’s training resources

National Youth Employment Coalition (NYEC)
NYEC is a network of over 285 national organizations, state and local coalitions, workforce boards, youth councils, community-based organizations, direct service providers, Youth Opportunity (YO!) grantee sites, and research and policy groups in the youth employment/development field. NYEC is the foremost national membership organization of the youth employment/development field and is dedicated to promoting policies and programs that help youth succeed in becoming lifelong learners, productive workers and self-sufficient citizens.

National Youth Development Information Center
NYDIC is a project of the National collaboration for youth. NYDIC makes available a broad range of resources to youth workers including materials on mentoring, diversity, gender issues and much more.

The National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHY)
NICHCY is the national information and referral center that provides information on disabilities and disability-related issues for families, educators, and other professionals. NICHCY’s special focus is children and youth (birth to age 22).

The National Consortium on Leadership and Disability for Youth (NCLD-Youth)
NCLD-Youth is a youth-led resource, information, and training center for youth and emerging leaders with developmental disabilities, housed at the Institute for Educational Leadership and funded by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities.
This is a comprehensive website for all disability-related federal resources.

Job Accommodation Network (JAN)
This resource provides a free consulting service that provides information about job accommodations, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the employability of people with disabilities.

National Center on Workforce and Disability/Adult (NCWD/Adult)
Youth 19 and over are eligible for adult services under WIA. This website provides training, technical assistance, policy analysis, and information to improve access for all in the workforce development system.

Row of orange dots.

Need help viewing a document? View our document help page.

Have a comment or suggestion in regard to our site? Please send us your feedback.