Youth development and leadership is an important process in which young people prepare for the challenges of growing up by building skills based on their strengths and interests. Youth development involves: learning to apply knowledge from school to other areas of life, connecting with peers and mentors who positively influence behavior and attitudes, thriving in both physical and mental health, working towards career goals, and leading oneself and others in the community in ways that matter to the young person. View the following Youth Development & Leadership resources from ODEP and its partner, the Center for Advancing Policy on Employment for Youth (CAPE-Youth).

  • YouthACT National Online Dialogue Final Report - YouthACT hosted a national online dialogue to gather ideas from youth and young adults with disabilities about what would help them become successful adults. View the final report for a summary of top ideas, comments, votes, and participant data.
  • Cultivating Leadership: Mentoring Youth with Disabilities - This resource explains the benefits of mentoring for all youth.
  • The 411 on Disability Disclosure - This guide helps youth understand the impact of disclosing disability in education, employment, and social settings.
  • Youth Tip Sheets - This series of tip sheets gives youth suggestions on how to become fully engaged in various youth development and leadership opportunities.

Individualized Learning Plans

An individualized learning plan (ILP) is a tool that students use - with support from school counselors, teachers, and parents - to choose and prepare for a career that meets their interests, skills, and values. All students can engage in ILPs to guide their decision-making around courses, extracurricular activities, and work opportunities that prepare them to successfully achieve their career goals.

Soft Skills

Soft skills are important traits that make you marketable in today's rapidly changing workplace. ODEP has created a set of lessons and videos for youth ages 14 to 21 to learn about the six key skill areas: communication, enthusiasm and attitude, teamwork, networking, problem solving and critical thinking, and professionalism.

Inclusive Service

Volunteer and work experiences can help prepare all youth, including youth with disabilities, for the world of work.

  • Government Benefits and Participation in Service Programs (PDF) - This resource explains how youth receiving Social Security disability benefits can participate in AmeriCorps without losing these benefits.
  • Inclusive Service as a Pathway to Employment 25 Years after the Americans with Disabilities Act - On July 29, 2015, the United States Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) issued a "Dear Colleague" letter to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its legacy of equal opportunity and inclusion. Two resources were highlighted. ODEP's Youth Technical Assistance Center, the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth, released Fostering Inclusive Volunteering and Service Learning, a guide for youth service professionals and others interested in facilitating youth engagement in volunteer activities. It describes how youth benefit from inclusive volunteering, different types of volunteer opportunities, and ways to assist youth to prepare for, access, and learn from their experiences. The second resource, the Toolkit for AmeriCorps Alumni with Disabilities Transitioning to Employment, developed by CNCS is a collection of resources regarding pre-employment and employment issues for people with disabilities, special programs, government services, and mentorship and networking opportunities.

Additional Resources

These resources are useful for youth with disabilities entering the world of work:

These tools enable job seekers to access information on career paths related to their interests, skills, and expectations for employment:

These resources emphasize the importance of learning about disability history and culture:

These miscellaneous resources can help all youth as they transition into the world of work: