Professional Development

A range of professionals support youth and young adults with disabilities (Y&YADs) in transitioning to employment and/or postsecondary education. This includes special educators, career and technical education instructors, vocational rehabilitation counselors and other workforce system professionals, college counselors and more. These professionals can effectively support Y&YADs when they are knowledgeable about best practices in serving Y&YADs and experienced in applying those practices in their work.

Professional development refers to various trainings and supports that help service providers develop the competencies to effectively support Y&YADs in their transitions. This can take place at various stages: in initial training and credentialing programs; when on-boarding to their positions; and throughout their career. Provider development can take the form of:

      • Trainings;
      • Education and certification programs;
      • Conferences and other continuing education opportunities;
      • Technical assistance;
      • Resources and toolkits; and
      • Communities of practice.

Professional development can be broad (i.e., focused on supporting Y&YADs in general) or focused on specific topics and/or populations (e.g., implementing trauma-informed care, supporting youth with mental health conditions).

In addition to preparing and training professionals for their work with Y&YADs, states can develop a strong workforce of youth-serving professionals by identifying and recruiting specific individuals (such as those who come from culturally or linguistically diverse communities) and by incentivizing unique, highly-skilled or in-demand professionals through additional pay and benefits.

States can develop a strong workforce of professionals serving Y&YADs by:

      • Requiring youth-serving professionals to complete transition-related coursework for credentialing and/or certification;
      • Developing leadership institutes and certificate programs focused on youth transitions;
      • Providing in-service trainings to youth-serving professionals from in-house or external experts;
      • Incorporating a youth voice and perspective into the creation and delivery of professional development for youth-serving professionals;
      • Supporting staff in attending conferences and pursuing other continuing education opportunities related to serving Y&YADs;
      • Developing resources, toolkits and guides for professionals to utilize;
      • Identifying and pursuing opportunities to receive technical assistance; and
      • Expanding the size and quality of the youth-serving workforce, including through increased compensation.

The University of Arkansas offers a Graduate Certificate in Transition, which prepares vocational rehabilitation counselors, educators, school administrators, related service providers, school counselors, school social workers and community service providers to effectively support Y&YADs throughout their transitions.


The Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction published an Inclusionary Practices Handbook to guide educators, school administrators and other stakeholders in supporting students with disabilities throughout the education process, including transition planning.


This brief from the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth describes strategies and considerations for designing and delivering professional development for youth service professionals at the state and local levels.

The National Technical Assistance Center on Transition provides information, tools and support to assist multiple stakeholders in delivering effective services and instruction for secondary students and out-of-school youth with disabilities.

This document from the University of Kansas Transition Coalition and the Division on Career Development and Transition serves as a resource for educators and youth-serving practitioners to use in transition planning, including around involving students, involving families and engaging in interagency collaboration.

This webpage from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy provides information and links to resources that youth services professionals can utilize in supporting Y&YADs in their transitions to employment and/or postsecondary education.