Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Leading the Way in Youth Workforce Development!

Last week, DCAYA and our partners at the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) celebrated the graduation of fourteen local professionals from our Youth Workforce Leaders Academy (YWLA). The Academy has run for two years now, and was developed with the support of the Community Foundation’s Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative where the Foundation and a dozen other philanthropic partners are co-investing in programs throughout the Washington region that focus on building local residents’ literacy and workforce skills to support their movement toward greater economic security. Also central to the success of the Academy, YWLA session topic areas and materials were based on the IEL-led National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth’s (NCWD/Youth) Youth Service Professionals’ Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities professional development initiative, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.

A year-long learning community, YWLA enables DC youth workforce development providers from the nonprofit and government sectors to further their skills, and bolster their organizations with deeper knowledge and resources. Over 10 monthly sessions, the Academy explored the following tenets of high-quality youth workforce development programming: Youth Rights & Policies, Youth Development & Youth Voice, Program Design and Delivery, Career Exploration, Workforce Preparation, Assessment & Individualized Planning, Employer Engagement, Collaboration & Partnership, and Engaging Families. 

As a culmination of the Academy’s curriculum, our 14 participants presented their Capstone Projects as part of their graduation celebration. Each was asked to either address an organizational challenge or explore an issue relevant to their professional development goals, and to work with mentors who were alumni of last year’s Academy. We were excited to hear of the range of approaches the graduates took to instilling the competencies they honed through YWLA into the operation of their organizations and the delivery of their programs. As an example, Jay Stewart from HumanitiesDC implemented a summer leadership and workforce training program focused on journalism that brought youth together with Washington Post writers to publish an online newspaper for DC high school students. Another Capstone Project from Alysia Spence at DC’s Child and Family Services Agency focused on designing a career pathways program for foster care youth in 9th and 10th grades to better prepare them for a successful transition into the workforce. The cadre’s Capstone Projects represented a wide range of approaches to building on existing programming and creating new opportunities to expose youth to the skills they need to succeed in the workforce; some included program retention strategies, creating opportunities for mentorship, and events designed to engage employers. (You can check out the full list of participants and their Capstones below!)

The graduation ceremony also featured Andy Shallal as our Keynote Speaker. As both the newly appointed chair of DC’s Workforce Investment Council, and the owner of the local restaurant chain Busboys and Poets, Mr. Shallal highlighted the importance of developing the District’s future workforce through high-quality and effective programs that are responsive to business needs. His remarks highlighted an imperative that became clear during the Academy’s Employer Engagement session: How can youth workforce development programs better support young employees to facilitate high performance in the workforce? Mr. Shallal also encouraged the cadre to hone in on the “I and O” of the new federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) legislation, emphasizing that the District must seek innovative opportunities to address misalignment between training programs and business needs. 

As one effort to squarely address that need by investing in the capacity of the District’s existing and emerging youth workforce development programs, this year’s Academy provided front-line staff with the time, space and resources to take a step back from the demands of their daily work, be introduced to both national and local promising practices, consider the perspectives and needs of business leaders, and develop innovative approaches to best serve their youth. Carolyn Greenspan from LAYC shared that, “YWLA workshops provided a dedicated time to reflect on my work and consider how to incorporate new best practices, which is time that can be hard to find in our busy work days. I also realized the benefit of incorporating additional time for reflection in our youth activities. The monthly sessions gave me a sense of community among the other youth workforce providers in D.C.”

It’s this community of passionate, dedicated and expert professionals that DCAYA and our partners at IEL hope to continue to build in our next cadre of YWLA participants! For more about the program and our graduates, please check out our 2015-2016 Program Booklet. If you’re interested in supporting future cohorts of the Youth Workforce Leaders Academy, please contact DCAYA Executive Director, Maggie Riden at

The 2015-2016 Youth Workforce Leaders Academy

Brittany Anderson, Program Coordinator at Urban Alliance
Capstone: 2016 Urban Alliance Mentor Networking Fair & Conference

Martin Copeland, Curriculum Outreach Manager at Urban Alliance
Capstone: Pre-Employment Summit for Older Youth

Elio Cruz, Program Manager at Chess Challenge in DC
Capstone: Assistantships for Post-Secondary Students

Isaias Garcia, Program Manager at Year Up
Capstone: $wagonomics Financial Literacy Empowerment Curriculum

Carina Gervacio, Program Director at Brainfood
Capstone: Homegrown Entrepreneurship Training

Carolyn Greenspan, Community Schools Coordinator at Latin American Youth Center
Capstone: Using Learner Persistence Strategies to Increase Retention in the WISE Program

Caroline Griswold Short, Director of Programming at Generation Hope
Capstone: Career Clinic for Graduation Scholars

Jill E. Salisbury, Associate Director of College Counseling at DC Prep Academy
Capstone: What's Next? Career Exploration Workshop

Michelle N. Smith, Manager of Alumni Programs at Higher Achievement
Capstone: Sarah Rosen Scholars Internship Program

Alysia Spence, Vocational Specialist at CFSA's Office of Youth Empowerment
Capstone: Early Career Readiness Activities for Youth in Foster Care

Jay Stewart, Program Director at HumanitiesDC
Capstone: Soul of the City Summer Youth Program

Furard K. Tate, CEO and Founder of Inspire BBQ
Capstone: Hospitality Training for All

Lynn Truong, formerly the Youth Program Director at AJE
Capstone: Algebra Equations Can Solve Life Problems (Life Skills Training)

Nandi Turner, Program Manager at Public Allies
Capstone: The Leadership Toolkit: What will you need for your journey?

Amy Dudas is DCAYA's Policy Analyst focusing on youth workforce development and disconnected youth. Please feel free to contact her at with any questions about YWLA, or if you or your colleagues might be interested in joining our third cadre of participants!

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