Investing in Professional Development: Building and Sustaining a Viable 4-H Youth Workforce for the Future


  • Kirk A. Astroth The University of Arizona
  • James Lindstrom Washington State University



Positive youth development outcomes are influenced by a competent, highly trained work force that enjoys their work with young people. The youth work field has struggled with how to keep and motivate front line youth workers given the heavy workloads, low pay, lack of recognition and irregular time demands to compete with family responsibilities. Professional development is a key strategy for retaining and motivating youth workers. A model of professional development called the Western 4-H Institute has been developed and held now for two sessions. Results from participants indicate that this strategy can have a positive influence on job satisfaction, competencies, and retention. In fact, only 10 percent of participants had left during the intervening 5 years, and job satisfaction had increased significantly over time. Organizational loyalty among participants is not high, but with early career professionals, they may still be trying to find their niche. A regional training model has shown itself to be effective in supporting 4-H youth professionals and is building a sustainable workforce for the future.






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