The Foundation concluded operations on December 31, 2020. Learn more.

Supporting the Youth Development Workforce

The youth development workforce is essential to fostering social and emotional learning and character development. It includes after-school program staff, camp counselors, coaches, teen shelter staff, caseworkers, faith-based program staff, and many others who interact with young people in out-of-school and community settings.

As organizational and field leaders increasingly emphasize the importance of developing this vital workforce, the Journal of Youth Development released a special issue focused on the topic. The peer-reviewed Journal is a leading publication bridging research and practice in the youth development field. Its March 2020 special issue addresses the people, profession, and possibilities associated with the youth development workforce. For example, articles cover strategies organizations use to prepare and assist youth workers, and system approaches for elevating workforce skills related to social and emotional learning.

Content and insights drawn from the Foundation’s National Character Initiative, which helps youth development organizations improve and scale effective practice for adults who interact with young people, are featured in two Journal entries.

In “Betting on the Workforce: An Interview With the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation,” Foundation senior program officers Rebecca Goldberg and Alex Hooker share their reflections on building the capacity of the youth-serving workforce. They were interviewed by Deborah Moroney and Jill Young of the American Institutes for Research, a Foundation partner. Rebecca and Alex speak from their history as members of the youth development workforce and convey how those experiences inspired them to support that workforce as grantmakers. They overview the Foundation’s approach to designing, implementing, and adapting the multiyear National Character Initiative. They conclude with aspirations for the youth development workforce of the future – including their hopes for continued practice and policy evolution – in light of the Foundation’s spend out in 2020.

Rebecca Goldberg also co-authored, with Femi Vance from the American Institutes for Research, “Creating a Rising Tide: Improving Social and Emotional Learning Across California.” This article describes how a statewide strategy – built through a partnership of grantmakers, nonprofits, and a state agency – addresses workforce challenges to better prepare youth-serving staff to promote social and emotional development. Rebecca and Femi explain the core levers used to develop the strategy and report on why and how state leaders prioritized social and emotional learning. They include lessons learned from this large-scale effort regarding collaboration, implementation, and assessing impact.

These features speak to the role philanthropy can play in increasing visibility for, and improving the impact of, the adults whose work is crucial to youth development.

Access the complete March 2020 issue of the Journal of Youth Development.

Learn more about the Foundation’s National Character Initiative.