Hello, my name is Elizabeth Kim, Manager of Measurement, Evaluation, Research, and Learning at the International Youth Foundation (IYF). One of IYF’s strategic objectives is to increase economic opportunity for youth by bridging connections among learning systems, communities, and employers, and creating pathways to self-employment or career opportunities. The Youth Opportunity Initiative is one of IYF’s projects that aims to reduce barriers to employment for young people by partnering with local community-based organizations to equip young people with life skills training and connect them with career exploration and employment opportunities. The program was launched in 2018 in Chicago, and the following are reflections from the pilot year:
- Build data capacity of partners: Our local community-based organizations (CBO) had expertise in delivering quality job readiness programming for young people but had widely differing data capacities. Some CBOs had greater expertise in collecting, cleaning, and reporting participant data while others had more limited capacity due to lack of a dedicated staff member for data, a lack of a centralized data system, or inconsistent data entry methods. Understand the limitations of partners in their ability to provide reliable data on participants and provide supports to build that capacity. For the Youth Opportunity Initiative, we conducted data reviews with CBOs to understand their data systems and practices, provided them monthly data summaries to verify their metrics, and connected them with local data specialists to support with specific data needs.
- Promote completion: While many workforce development programs assess employment outcomes of young people who have completed the training program, it is also important to note how many complete or do not complete the program. According to WIOA’s 2017 performance report, only about 52% of youth served exited workforce development programs. In addition to focusing on outcomes of program completers, note completion rates. This will lead to understanding why some young people do not complete the program and ways to strengthen the program to promote youth’s persistence.
- Look at subgroups: It is common practice to disaggregate outcomes by demographic characteristics such as race, age, and gender, but combinations of these characteristics can also provide interesting insight. For example, in our analysis, Black participants had similar employment rates as other races, but Black females had significantly higher employment rates compared to their male counterparts. This information helped the Youth Opportunity team think through ways to understand different program and hiring experiences using a gender lens and ways to better support Black males in particular. Observe meaningful interactions to uncover deeper insights of program effects.
- Thrive Chicago’s 2019 impact report details the landscape of opportunity youth in Chicago.
- WIOA’s 2017 national summary provides performance results of WIOA-supported States and local areas.
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