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Workforce Development Professionals

Professionals who help prepare and train youth for the workforce, and those that employ them, can play a key role in promoting adolescent health today and facilitating young people’s transition to adulthood as healthy, productive employees.

The Workforce Development Field: Making a Difference 

Work can be an important part of healthy adolescence and yield multiple benefits for youth and society in general. 

In addition to economic benefits and job-related skills, work experiences provide teens with opportunities to engage in key developmental tasks, such as decision-making, building social skills, and taking on new levels of responsibility. Working during high school has benefits now and into the future; it’s associated with lower likelihood of dropping out of school, higher employment rates, and better wages in adulthood. 

Professionals who employ or prepare and train youth for the workforce are not only helping young people now with additional income and job skills; they are also improving their employment and career prospects in the future. This has positive implications for individual youth, families, and society at large.  

These professionals are encouraged to adopt one or more of the roles below to enhance efforts to promote adolescent health.

Action Steps and Resources

Incorporate positive youth development into professional development training 

Promote staff development that fosters holistic, strengths-based approaches to serving youth. Use training curricula and approaches that help adult professionals understand adolescent development and identify opportunities to foster resilience and promote healthy development. An increased awareness of the unique stages of adolescent development will help staff better facilitate learning opportunities, promote meaningful youth engagement, and effectively teach the skills youth need to succeed in work, including academic, social-emotional, and practical life skills. 

Find more resources about incorporating positive youth development into professional development training.

Identify services to meet the unique needs of opportunity youth

Educate local workforce boards about the unique needs and barriers to work for youth, especially youth who are homeless, parenting, low-income, LGBTQ, disabled, in foster care, or no longer in school. Support community-based organizations in providing housing, health care, trauma-informed services, and other assistance to these youths. Obtain input from teens on how to improve services and supports to be more teen-friendly and effective.  When possible, bring the services to young people instead of asking them to come to you to get what they need.

Find more resources about identifying services to meet the unique needs of opportunity youth.

Work with vocational rehabilitation partners  

Strengthen pre-employment transition services for youth with disabilities. Assist educators with incorporating health and employment planning into Individualized Evaluation Plan (IEP) meetings for high school students with disabilities. Provide information about support services and job training opportunities to school districts so they can help all students, including students with IEPs, plan for their lives after graduation. 

Find more resources about working with vocational rehabilitation partners.

Facilitate mentoring opportunities

Connect young people to quality mentoring programs that acknowledge the individual differences among adolescents, including socio-economic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability. Supportive, healthy relationships are critically important to positive youth development.  

Find more resources about facilitating mentoring opportunities.

Identify and improve transportation options 

Work with community partners to let local officials know how important transportation is to young people’s success at work. Encourage local governments to improve transportation options and urge employers to consider subsidizing transportation for young workers after school so students can get to their part-time jobs safely and on time.  

Find more resources about identifying and improving transportation options.

Promote financial literacy for youth and their families

Support local organizations, including high schools and community colleges, that provide financial literacy training. Teach youth about financial literacy, which includes help with setting up a bank account, interpreting a pay stub, creating and staying on a budget, and understanding credit and debit cards. Partner with local banks and make sure youth know how to bank their earnings and understand interest. Help youth understand credit reports and how to build their credit.  

Find more resources about promoting literacy for youth and their families.

Engage employers in the community

Speak to employers about the many benefits of youth employment.  Engage youth in outreach to employers to communicate how much they want to be employed.  Share examples of employers that offer on-site and other supports that help youth be successful at work, such as transportation, child care, and health services. Encourage local workforce boards to create youth councils so young people can participate in a meaningful way. 

Find more resources about engaging employers in the community.


1 Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs. (n.d.). Employment. Retrieved from https://youth.gov/youth-topics/youth-employment
Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on February 26, 2019