NJSACC was  a part of this project.
 FOR RELEASE Friday, December 1, 2006          For further information contact:
              Nicole Yohalem, Forum for Youth Investment

New Surveys Provides First-Ever Portrait of Vital,
Often Overlooked Youth Workforce
Despite vast numbers and a diversity of roles critical to communities, 
youth workers are “invisible” 

Research Findings Prompt National, State and Local Youth Worker Organizations to Craft Multi-Pronged Action Agenda to Develop Strong, Valued Youth Work Profession

WASHINGTON, DC – A new report released today provides the most complete picture ever of the estimated 2 to 4 million youth workers in the United States. These individuals work in youth centers, after-school activities, camps, prevention programs, recreation centers, arts organizations and more. Titled Putting Youth Work on the Map, the report is based on findings from two major studies conducted of more than 5,000 youth workers across the nation, incorporating their voices and perspectives in an effort to illustrate the challenges and aspirations of these critical, but often overlooked workers.

“Youth workers play a vital role in today’s society, yet they are nearly invisible in terms of what we know about them,” stated Karen Pittman, of The Forum for Youth Investment, and author of the report on behalf of The Next Generation Youth Work Coalition. “For working parents, the youth workers who staff after-school and community-based programs provide an essential bridge of supports and services for children between the end of the school day and the end of the work day. For children and youth, these workers are positive adult role models, mentors, coaches, tutors and friends. And for vulnerable youth, the frontline workers at vocational training, substance abuse prevention and other programs offer a lifeline. Despite the array of fundamental roles they perform, until this research was conducted, we knew very little about these workers: what motivates them, how long they stay in these jobs, and why they leave.”

The new report defines youth workers as individuals who work with or on behalf of youth to facilitate their personal, social and educational development and enable them to gain a voice, influence and place in society as they make the transition from dependence to independence. Youth workers work with young people primarily between the ages of 8 and 18; in a variety of systems and settings.

Key report findings include:

-The vast majority of youth workers report high levels of job satisfaction, but equally high levels of job mobility. They may be happy in their jobs, but that doesn’t translate into lengthy tenure in these positions.
-Youth workers are diverse in ethnic background, gender, experience, age and educational background.  While half of these workers are 30 or younger, and a third are under 25, another third are 40 or older. Similarly, while some workers have a background in a similar field (education, child care, social services), others come to this work with prior experience in wholly unrelated professions (retail, technology, health care, etc.).
-Compensation for youth workers is low, and in some instances unlivable. The median salary range is $25,000 – $25,999. As a result, many youth workers report taking second jobs in order to make ends meet.  And pay is the top factor influencing worker decisions to leave the field.
-Career advancement and formal recognition of training or experience are nearly non-existent. Most youth workers report there are no clear promotion opportunities at their organizations. In order to move up, many youth workers have to leave their jobs and their organizations.

The results of this research and its implications for action formed the basis of a recent meeting of 45 local, state and national experts. Held in Baltimore November 8-9, the purpose of the meeting was to begin to craft an action agenda focused on developing a strong, valued youth work profession. The agenda includes actions that can be taken at the state, national and local level, by different stakeholders, including youth workers, employers, policymakers, advocates and others, and will focus on what can be done within individual organizations, within the youth work field, and in the larger community to strengthen and support this workforce.

“Youth workers serve children, youth and parents across the nation, but their role and importance are largely unrecognized by society at large, an ‘invisibility’ that surely impacts the ability of these workers to make a living wage and secure benefits,” said Judy Nee, President and CEO of the National AfterSchool Association which conducted one of the surveys. “The stakeholders gathered at this meeting – educators, employers, funders, youth workers and others – know that building public will and acknowledging the critical value of the work youth workers perform is a vital step in ensuring that this workforce is valued.” 

At the meeting, legitimizing youth work among the public and increasing awareness about its importance and impact was identified nearly unanimously as the single most important undertaking, and one that would have the greatest impact on the field. A number of next steps – including strategies for influencing policy, strengthening organizational capacity, and increasing consensus within the field – were identified and a plan for executing these at the local, state and national levels is being developed.

ABOUT THE NEXT GENERATION YOUTH WORK COALITION: Next Gen brings together individuals and organizations dedicated to developing a strong, diverse after-school and development workforce that is stable, prepared, supported and committed to the well-being and empowerment of youth. They believe that this requires progress in at least five key areas: standards and competencies; professional development and training resources; learning delivery systems; career and compensation guidelines and research and evaluation systems. For more information visit:

ABOUT THE FORUM FOR YOUTH INVESTMENT: The Forum is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to help gin communities and the nation make sure all young people are Ready by 21: Ready for college, work and life. This goal requires that young people have the supports, opportunities and services needed to prosper and contribute where they live, learn, work, play and make a difference. The Forum provides youth and adult learners with the information, technical assistance, training, network support and partnership opportunities needed to increase the quality and quantity of youth investment and youth involvement. The Forum is a member of the Next Gen Coalition. For more information visit:


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