PHILADELPHIA, PA - Over the last several years, PYN has partnered with the Aspen Institute’s Opportunity Youth Forum in an effort to better target, evaluate, and report on programmatic outcomes. Read more below.
The Opportunity Youth Forum:
The Opportunity Youth Forum (OYF) is a network of over forty local collaboratives in urban, rural, and tribal communities across the United States that seeks to build and scale reconnection pathways that achieve better outcomes in education, employment and overall well-being for opportunity youth.
Opportunity youth are defined as young adults, 16-24 years of age, who are not engaged in either work or education. According to research led by the Aspen Institute in partnership with Equal Measure, Philadelphia’s community disconnection rate ranks in the top 10 among cities surveyed with an estimated 19% (33,370) of 16-24 year olds who are currently disconnected from work and education opportunities.
There are currently at least 5 million such young people in the US, and their lack of access to education and work comes at great personal cost to themselves, as well as long term social and economic costs to their communities.
Disconnection Rates in Philadelphia:
The Opportunity Youth Forum’s Common Measures are a set of four metrics to assess the overall opportunity youth disconnection rate, and the disconnection rates for high school, post-secondary, and workforce annually at the population level using the US Census Bureau’s American Community survey. The common measures provide a unique annual look into our community’s opportunity youth data and help to track progress and inform strategies.
Initial Target Setting:
At the start of 2020, PYN joined the Opportunity Youth Forum’s Data for Impact initiative, aligning its strategies with the shared goals of achieving better outcomes for opportunity youth in education and employment.
With the goal of significantly decreasing disconnection rates in Philadelphia, PYN focused on moving the needle on two critical measures: community disconnection and high school disconnection rates. Using data provided by Equal Measure, PYN set two-year targets for programmatic outcomes which have a direct impact on reducing community disconnection and high school disconnection. This approach addressed the challenges opportunity youth faced, which were later exacerbated by the limited opportunities and wrap-around services available due to the COVID-19 global health crisis.
Leaning heavily on its existing Education, Employment, and Empowerment (E3) Program, PYN’s efforts aimed to connect opportunity youth to diploma pathways, advanced training, quality mentorship and future job placements.
Estimates and Projections:
To estimate its contribution, PYN considered the complex landscape of Philadelphia’s support services, along with our more than 20 years experience in the field. Projections were based on PYN’s historic performance of youth served as well as the addition of new program partners which would have a significant impact on service capacity. Estimates also included a 10% increase in the number of youth connected due to performance increase.
PYN estimated it would connect 980 individuals to employment or education pathways and 697 to high school diploma pathways through participation in the E3 program. This would equate to a 2.9% reduction in the community disconnection rate, and an 11.9% reduction in the high school disconnection rate.
After one year of work, PYN had connected 397 youth to its E3 programming, and 226 to a high school diploma pathway. Although lower than what was anticipated, numbers were still on track to reach projected estimates. In 2023 investment priorities shifted in Philadelphia, and E3 programming was discontinued.
Impact of the Global Pandemic:
The COVID-19 pandemic significantly influenced PYN's numbers and overall program implementation. The lack of opportunities and wrap-around services posed formidable challenges, limiting the organization's ability to reach as many opportunity youth as initially projected. The phased conclusion of the E3 program in 2023 was partly attributed to the evolving pandemic landscape and the associated difficulties in securing continued funding.
While PYN’s E3 program was ultimately put on pause, numbers show that PYN was well on track to meeting PYN’s projected targets.
Despite challenges, PYN remains committed to serving opportunity youth, and continuing efforts that contribute to decreasing OY disconnection rates, increasing their secondary credential attainment rates and preventing disconnection overall.
Recognizing the evolving needs of the demographic, PYN is launching new strategies in 2024. These initiatives aim to address disconnection rates on youth by offering more than 400 hyper-targeted career exposure, work experience services, and paid internship experiences to opportunity youth, fostering resilience and adaptability among Philadelphia's talented youth.
About the Philadelphia Youth Network
The Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN) is a solutions-builder forging together significant players to alleviate a root cause of poverty by preparing 12-24-year-olds to become productive working adults. Our work is grounded in the understanding that young people need access to both education and employment, proven factors in being prepared for a career. With a track record of increasing impact, PYN funds and brokers action with the right partners to collectively address barriers. PYN constructs systems to create change, while innovating to meet evolving needs. Together with our partners, PYN dramatically changes the trajectory of individuals’ lives by giving voice to underserved youth, and ultimately creating a pipeline for an educated, engaged workforce. For more information, visit www.pyninc.org.