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Developing career pathways for youth workers

Thumbnail image for nextgen-main-logo.jpgThere is a perpetual discussion in the youth work field about how to create career pathways and other growth opportunities for staff working in youth programs. We have perhaps millions of people employed across the country in a variety of youth programs ranging from before and after school to out- of-school time to youth development to summer programs and camps. Most of these jobs are part-time, and if they are full-time, the pay is low to moderate and growth opportunities are limited. How do we create more growth opportunities for youth workers? What pathways might we develop to help youth workers pursue a career in the field?

Rebecca GoldbergThe California Teacher Pathway provides an example of preparing young people who want to become teachers to attend community college and then a California State University for their Bachelor's degree and teaching credential. To help them gain more experience, the students are matched with part-time jobs in after school programs while taking academic classes. I've seen firsthand many struggling students actually do better academically in college when they are also working in a youth program because the work helps inspire their education and motivates them knowing they are role models to the youth they are serving. A recent issue brief published by Ready by 21 as part of the Credentialed by 26 Series titled "When Working Works: Employment & Postsecondary Success," reinforces this concept confirming that working 20 hours or less per week can benefit college students' academic performance, especially when it is contextualized to their area of study. Youth work jobs connected to teacher preparation programs are the perfect marriage of work and academic study.

There are significant challenges in developing career pathways for youth work that we will delve into further in next month's Next Gen blog, but in the meantime do you have other examples to share of successful career pathway programs or resources for youth workers? To spur some further thinking and discussion, read the report Organizing Pathways for Leadership Development and Social Change. Let's kick off the conversation and continue to let the complexities unfold in the next months!

Rebecca Goldberg, South Bay Center for Community Development

Co-Director of Career & Workforce Development , and Next Gen Leadership Council

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  1. The good news is that this work of developing well articulated pathways for youth workers into future careers is becoming more and more established across the country. Taking pilot programs to scale continues to be a challenge, yet the interest in these programs remains strong. Let's continue to incorporate youth voices into our work and continue to steal the good ideas from established pathway programs to expand access.

  2. About six years ago, I was teaching an Educational Psychology course in a teacher education program. The course required "field experiences" so I used to take my entire class to an after school program. The course met at the program. I held one hour of class, then they worked with the kids for an hour, then we debriefed for the last hour.
    When the Teacher Education program was up for accreditation a major battled ensued and I had to defend the after school environment as a quality 'field experience' for preservice teachers. Many believed that the field experiences should solely be in a classroom.
    I am curious what people think about this.


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