The Youth Development Workforce: The People, the Profession, and the Possibilities


  • Lynne M. Borden University of Minnesota
  • Michael Conn Student Research Foundation
  • Casey D. Mull University of Georgia Extension
  • Michele Wilkens NAA Board of Directors



youth worker, youth professional, workforce, youth development, youth programs


Understanding the role of youth workers and promoting an accurate representation of these professionals and their work requires a focus on current research, practice, and policies that capture the challenges and opportunities of the youth development workforce. An overview of this special issue of the Journal of Youth Development examines efforts to support individual youth workers, strategies organizations use to prepare and assist youth workers, and system approaches to building the capacity of the workforce in key areas such as quality and social emotional learning, and concludes with an encapsulation of interviews with 10 key leaders nationwide. They identified the overarching task as one of identification of the elements that can make the field cohesive across the different settings and programs, while supporting youth in their growth through experiences that are rooted in the science of learning and development. Finally, this special issue offers the opportunity to better understand the youth workers, examine different types of professional development pathways, explore the role that systems can play in support of these workers, and reflect on the challenges and opportunities raised by key leaders in the profession.


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