On July 28, the second class of D.C. Youth Workforce Leaders Academy (YWLA) graduated from the 10-month professional development program co-led by IEL and the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates. This year, 14 District of Columbia youth service professionals graduated from YWLA, which develops competencies and provides a peer learning community for staff from organizations that provide workforce development services to D.C. youth ages 16 to 24, including those with disabilities. YWLA is funded by the Community Foundation for National Capital Region’s Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative and developed from resources funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).
Through YWLA, participants received training facilitated by IEL staff on essential practices and considerations for designing and delivering high-quality youth workforce development programming: youth rights and policies, youth development and youth voice, program design and delivery, career exploration and workforce preparation, assessment and individualized planning, employer engagement, collaboration and partnership, and engaging families. The training content is drawn from the IEL-led and ODEP funded National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth’s (NCWD/Youth) Youth Service Professionals’ Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities professional development initiative and training modules.
At the graduation ceremony, participants delivered capstone project presentations describing the ways in which they are using the knowledge and connections they gained during YWLA to strengthen or enhance their organization’s youth services. For example, Brittany Anderson, a program coordinator at Urban Alliance, developed and conducted a job fair for prospective youth interns to provide opportunities for career exploration, workplace readiness training, and networking with employers. When asked about how YWLA impacted her professionally, Anderson said, “I learned how to work better with employer partners through assessing their workplace needs to produce the best match for our interns.”
For her project, YWLA graduate Alysia Spence, vocational specialist at D.C.’s Child and Family Services Agency designed a career pathways program with year-round career development activities for foster care youth in 9th and 10th grades to better prepare them for a successful transition into the workforce. Spence described the benefit of doing a project as part of YWLA, stating, “The capstone allowed me to do an in-depth analysis of what we currently do to prepare youth for career decisions and employment. Age 20 is just too late to start this process.” She also emphasized the value of YWLA’s learning community approach. “Participating in YWLA has made a profound impact on me personally and professionally. The collaborative nature of the Academy has afforded me opportunities to network with peers, mentors, and leaders in the field of youth workforce development.”
To learn more about all the YWLA participants and their capstone projects, read their profiles in the YWLA Graduation Program Book.
IEL works in close partnership with the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates to plan and coordinate the YWLA in D.C. IEL is interested in developing similar partnerships in other communities to offer similar Academies to youth service professionals in other parts of the country.