There 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?
The 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!