Community-driven leadership development in education, health, and employment.

The YSPs/KSAs Initiative

Youth Service Professionals’ Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities: Building Staff Capacity to Work with Youth

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Youth Service Professionals’ Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities: Building Staff Capacity to Work with Youth

Youth Service Professionals’ Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities: Building Staff Capacity to Work with Youth


WHAT are the YSPs/KSAs?

The Youth Service Professionals’ Knowledge Skills, and Abilities (YSPs/KSAs) are the key competencies that adults need to work directly with youth, including youth with disabilities. Interactive YSPs/KSAs training sessions equip staff to support transition-age youth (ages 14 – 26) to reach their educational, employment, and independent living goals. Organizations, agencies, and cross-sector partners can request all nine YSPs/KSAs modules for training or select specific topics in a combination that fits program goals and the professional development needs of staff. 

WHO are Youth Service Professionals?

Youth Service Professionals (YSPs) support the transition of youth and young adults to school, work, and independent living. YSPs work across many fields and settings, including:  transition services, career counseling, middle and high schools, American Job Centers, social services, healthcare, vocational rehabilitation, foster care, juvenile justice, and a range of community support services. YSPs include direct service staff, managers, and administrators who support the successful transition of young people into adulthood.

WHY Professional Development on Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities?

  • Program Impact: Professional development is linked to increased job satisfaction, more youth involvement, better practice, and improved youth outcomes. 
  • Lasting Behavior Change: In a YSPs/KSAs demonstration project, researchers found that six months after a session 70 percent of training participants were regularly applying strategies they learned in their work with youth.
  • Relevant Session Topics: A majority of YSPs/KSAs training participants reported that the training was directly relevant to their work and that they would recommend YSPs/KSAs training to their colleagues.
  • Individual Development: YSPs/KSAs assessment tools help individuals to assess their knowledge and build capacity where it is needed.
  • Organizational Development: Programs use YSPs/KSAs assessments to aid in hiring and development of staff to meet performance goals and achieve youth outcomes.
  • Policy Decisions:  Policymakers develop policies and programs to support capacity-building and improve outcomes for youth with and without disabilities, their families, and their communities.

HOW can you use YSPs/KSAs to reach your goals?

  • Focused Capacity Building. Select topics to meet your strategic goals or youth outcomes (one or more sessions).
  • Professional Development Academy. Create a series of training sessions to develop a cross-agency cohort (regular sessions).
  • Regional/National Implementation. Use tools and training to develop a customized approach for your program (consultation, train-the-trainer).
  • Cross-Sector Initiative Design. Select a framework, tools, and training that meet the needs of your cross-sector approach to scale practices (consultation, tool design, training to scale).

"The training was inspiring. It was great to see professionals in the field from all over the state deliver topics with passion, humor, and keeping the humanity of those we serve as the main focus.”
-Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, New York

WHEN and WHERE are YSPs/KSAs sessions delivered?

  • IEL will work with each organization and its partners to identify the format, topics, and facilitators best suited to the context, participants, and strategic goals of the initiative.
  • Depending on the goals, audience, and topics identified, sessions can be delivered in one day, over multiple days, or in monthly sessions. Training is held on-site or through blended learning options.
  • All sessions are facilitated by professionals who work with youth and young adults with and without disabilities through a highly interactive and engaging approach.  Facilitators have a range of subject matter expertise in youth-serving systems and are selected based on the topic and audience.

YSPs/KSAs Module Topics

  1. Advancing the Youth Service Field. Youth development principles, youth laws, ethics, confidentiality, and boundaries
  2. Communicating Effectively with Youth. Trusting relationships, cultural competence, diversity, and social media 
  3. Assessment & Individualized Planning. Formal and informal assessments, youth goal setting, planning, and informed choice
  4. Relationships with Families. Engaging families in youth transition, diverse families, and community resources
  5. Career Exploration & Planning. Career interest assessment & exploration, career coaching, and work-based learning
  6. Building Resources & Partnerships. Blending & braiding funds, cross-system collaboration, and maximizing services
  7. Relationships with Businesses. Engaging employers, supporting employer needs, and developing partnerships
  8. Quality Program Implementation. Effective program design, youth leadership and data-driven management
  9. Preparing Youth for the Workforce. Employability, self-advocacy, job searches, retention, and customized employment
  10. Additional Customized Topics Available. Universal design for learning, trauma-informed practice, youth voice, disability awareness, etiquette, and inclusion

YSPs/KSAs Tools & Resources

"The trainings gave us a common language, deepened the partnership among our three agencies, and increased cooperation.  We are incorporating the materials into future agency trainings."
-NY Department of Labor Administrator

Contact our YSPs/KSAs training team by email at