Using the Workforce Investment Act and Other Resources to Foster Career Resiliency in our Youth

by Fran Abbott

The Workforce Investment Act
Congress agreed that our young people are our future when it passed the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 with its mandates for upgrading and strengthening the way we support our youth and their communities. WIA requires that programs for registered youth include the following elements:

  • linkages between academic and occupational training;
  • effective connections to intermediaries with strong links to the job market and employers;
  • tutoring and study skills training leading to completion of secondary school;
  • alternative schools services;
  • work experience - paid and unpaid;
  • leadership development;
  • counseling;
  • supportive services;
  • follow-up,for not less than 12 months.

See www.doleta.gov/usworkforce/win.asp for complete act and tools.

WIA mandates partnerships that seek to leverage every available resource in building a healthier community for youth development. WIA calls for a local comprehensive approach for all young people that seeks to build on what's right with our youth and our communities. The WORD in fostering career resiliency is ASSETS. In our, at times, desperate search for resources, we've come to realize that our most valuable resources are in our youth themselves. Reminiscent of the Pogo cartoon "I've found the enemy, and the enemy is us." Instead we now say, "I've found the resources, and the resources are our young people and their allies."
Best Practices
Additionally, communities can be awarded Youth Opportunity Area Grants aimed at high poverty areas. Today we see strong evidence of best practices coming from these centers. These are highlighted in the Case Management: A Resource Manual by Anne Thomas Adams, Sandra Franklin and Rebecca Taylor, Ph.D, and can be found at www.doleta.gov Click on Youth. You'll be in "What's New," where you'll find the manual listed.

Building Assets
Search Institute, www.search-institute.org, has put some hard data to what only makes common sense. We get what we pay attention to! We get what we think! We get what we say! When we think and say that teens are losers, troublemakers, won't listen, that's what we get. How about devoting our time and attention to finding out what's right with youth, what needs encouraging, then building healthy lives and communities together, as allies, one positive word at a time.

Assessing Ourselves
Evaluation Management Training (EMT) of Folsom, California, www.emt.org, offers the following assessment tool, called "Calling All Adults!" Assets are built whenever key people in the lives youth (that includes parents, teachers, coaches, counselors, rabbis, employers and others) do the following:

  • Help young people feel loved, supported and accepted.
  • Set consistent and appropriate boundaries.
  • Engage young people in constructive, healthy activities.
  • Help young people stay committed to education and learning.
  • Nurture the development of values in young people.
  • Help young people build life skills and a sense of competency.
  • Model responsible behavior.

Reflect on your daily interaction with youth and review this list again. What are you doing well? Where could you improve?

Rich Feller and Garry Walz in concluding their collection of essays, Career Transitions in Turbulent Times, Eric/Cass Publications (1997), stress "There is an emerging consensus that what every worker needs is a core set of survival skills: resilience, the capacity for continuous learning and improvement, the ability to network and team, skill in using technology effectively, willingness to take calculated risks and learn from setbacks." These capacities are captured in what we know as the SCANS and the National Career Development Guidelines in the United States, and the Blueprint for Life, www.blueprint4life.ca, in Canada.

Fostering the best in our young people is the charge not only to government, non-profits, our community allies and our schools, but also to all career educators, career counselors and career development facilitators.


Fran Abbott, M.A., has worked in the field of career development for two decades. She has designed and directed programs in high schools, the community college and as the director of the YM/YWCA at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. She is a Career Development Facilitator Instructor and currently she coordinates youth services for the San Joaquin County WorkNet, where she continues to design innovative programs that empower young people and their families. She may be contacted via
Email: franabbott@comcast.net


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