YFE TIG Week: The Youth Opportunity Initiative by Elizabeth Kim

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:

Hot tips:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Rad Resources:

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Youth Focused Evaluation (YFE) TIG Week with our colleagues in the YFE Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our YFE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

2 thoughts on “YFE TIG Week: The Youth Opportunity Initiative by Elizabeth Kim”

  1. Hi Kim,

    The strategic objective you have here for your youth is crucial and necessary in any community let alone in low socio-economic neighborhoods. In my own experience, growing up I always had the required skills to work entry level jobs but lacked mentorship and guidance to go out and enter the workforce. I really appreciate a Foundation that focuses on building connections for youth with its community.

    In my school district we have a similar type of program with the YMCA. Here students can develop skills that employers look for while strengthening resume, cover letter and interview skills. They attend daily classes that develop workplace skills and are then connected with an employer for an “X” amount of time. The program is government funded so the employer has roughly half the costs. After the specific time and program is over, the employer and youth can see if they are a good fit with one another and continue their employee/employer relationship or decide to go their separate ways.

    I think it was a brilliant idea for you to look at the data capacity of your community partners. This way you can track, record and analyze what CBO are having success and which ones are falling through the cracks. Looking at subgroups was also a great idea I wouldn’t have thought of from the top of my head. However, it’s very clear separate races, ages, and genders can have a certain advantage or disadvantage and being able to see and understand that can allow for strengthening for future generations.

    THANKS 🙂

  2. Who is the target population?
    What services do they need?
    How best should the project/ program deliver those services (or activities)?
    How will the program work with the target population to sustain the project/ program?
    What is the structure or organization of the project/ program?
    What resources does the project/ program need?
    How did you find interest in this program? (Your story)

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