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Professional Development

Youth service professionals require competencies in many fields (youth development, education, workforce development, disability, etc.) in order to effectively guide youth in transition and maximize their potential.

  • Designing Professional Development for Youth Workforce Development – This brief describes strategies and considerations for designing and delivering professional development for youth service professionals at the state and local levels. It also highlights strategies, required resources, and lessons learned from three different professional development initiatives. The brief informs the decisions of organizations, agencies, and funders as they consider how to invest in professional development efforts within the workforce development system and other youth program contexts.

Career Development

Career development is a process in which all youth choose and prepare for careers that fit their interests, skills, and values by participating in the three key phases of self-exploration, career exploration, and career planning and management. 37 states and the District of Columbia have implemented individualized learning plans (ILPs) as a career development activity that youth service professionals can use in guiding youth through the career development process. ODEP has produced the following career development resources in partnership with the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth), Social Dynamics, Boston University, the University of Minnesota, and the Institute for Community Inclusion.
View general career development information and resources:

Other ILP Information and Resources

  • "ILPs Across the U.S." - This interactive map provides a snapshot of current ILP policies in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
  • "Shelly Saves the Future: A Story of Career Development" Informational Comic - Follow high school senior Shelly as she uses an ILP to take charge of her future.
  • "Kickstart Your ILP" Toolkit - This toolkit provides students with tips on how to jumpstart their ILPs as well as a checklist of steps to complete during each year of high school.
  • ILP How-to Guide 2.0 - This updated guide provides career development resources and examples of ILP implementation for a range of age groups and settings including elementary and secondary school, postsecondary education, workforce development programs and other non-school settings.
  • ILP Fact Sheet - This fact sheet provides the definition of a quality ILP and an overview of research findings and best practices.

Youth Development and Leadership

Youth development is a process in which youth prepare for the challenges of adolescence and adulthood by building skills and competencies through coordinated, progressive activities and experiences. Youth service professionals can help guide youth through their understanding of the five phases of youth development: 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 a career goal, and leading others in the community in ways that matter to the young person.

Soft Skills

"Skills to Pay the Bills: Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success," is a curriculum developed by ODEP focused on teaching "soft" or workforce readiness skills to youth, including youth with disabilities. Created for youth service professionals as an introduction to workplace interpersonal and professional skills, the curriculum is targeted for youth ages 14 to 21 in both in-school and out-of-school environments. The basic structure of the program is comprised of modular, hands-on, engaging activities that focus on six key skill areas: communication, enthusiasm and attitude, teamwork, networking, problem solving and critical thinking, and professionalism.

Inclusive Service

Volunteerism and work-based learning (both paid and voluntary) can provide critical preparation for youth as they transition from school into the world of work, and youth service professionals play a key role by ensuring that these activities are inclusive. ODEP and the Corporation for National and Community Service have collaborated to create policy guidance and highlight resources to promote national service as an option for all youth, including youth with disabilities.

  • Policy Guidance Letter [ PDF | HTML ] - This letter explains the benefits of work-based learning and volunteerism, the link between service learning and competitive employment, and income exemptions for Social Security beneficiaries participating in AmeriCorps.
  • Use of Social Security Work Incentives to Promote Work-Based Learning in Youth Employment and Training Programs - This white paper provides an overview on the importance of work-based learning experiences and the current state of policy on the income exclusion for Social Security beneficiaries participating in AmeriCorps.
  • Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment (PDF) - This report discusses the link between service learning and achieving competitive employment.
  • 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.


ODEP's apprenticeship initiative focused on increasing systems capacity to provide integrated inclusive apprenticeship training to youth and young adults with a full range of disabilities, including those with the most significant disabilities, and to utilize the increased flexibilities detailed in DOL's apprenticeship regulations, 29 CFR Part 29, issued in 2008.

Additional Resources