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Professional Development

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Afterschool Workforce Focus: A Powerful Plan for Action

Research shows it: Quality afterschool programs make positive impacts on youth and well-prepared staff contribute to program quality.

Data collected as part of NAA's 2016 workforce survey shows the people in the afterschool profession possess a variety of education levels, backgrounds and experience. This workforce variability indicated a pivotal strategy to improving quality was the need to identify the skills and competencies it takes for someone to be successful working with youth.

In 2011, NAA published the Core Knowledge and Competencies for Afterschool and Youth Development (CKCs), outlining the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary for afterschool professionals to provide quality programs. We have the core knowledge and competencies. But we realize that to get the desired impact, we need to take it a step further and create quality professional development (PD) systems to build these skills in our workforce.

An NAA survey conducted in 2017 revealed promising practices from national PD providers, higher education entities, states, counties, and cities that have all integrated these core knowledge and competencies into PD systems. Each system integrated the NAA CKCs into their respective PD systems because they are a nationally recognized, research-based framework that identified standards of practice and afterschool knowledge professionals need to be effective. The systems highlighted that grounding PD programs in a national framework gave credibility to the PD. The NAA CKCs provided an opportunity for PD to support a common language and competencies afterschool professionals need to be successful working with youth.

In 2018, a chapter from The Growing Out-of-School Time Field: Past, Present, and Future, written by Gina Warner and Heidi Ham of NAA and Melissa Fenton from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, indicated five recommendations for building common knowledge and competencies for the afterschool workforce, through adoption and implementation of the NAA CKCs.

  1. Generate stronger evidence to strengthen the out-of-school time (OST) workforce.
  2. Increase political will and financing for professionalizing the workforce.
  3. Provide equitable access to high-quality professional development and learning.
  4. Create systems to recruit, retain and advance the leadership of the profession.
  5. Promote the vision of a cohesive and comprehensive workforce that includes individuals working in diverse OST settings.

Using these recommendations as a blueprint for action to build knowledge and competencies in the afterschool professionals influencing our nation's youth will support and promote the professionalism of the afterschool field, strengthen the afterschool workforce, and ensure the positive youth development that quality afterschool programs are known to produce.

Visit The Growing Out-of-School Time Field for more information on this and related topics.

Malone, H. J., & Donahue, T. (Eds.). (2018). The Growing Out-of-School Time Field: Past, Present, and Future (pp. 103-113). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc.

Written by Heidi Ham, Vice President, Programs and Strategy, National AfterSchool Association.

This article originally appeared in AfterSchool Today.