Opportunity Works was an initiative that aimed to connect opportunity youth—in particular, young men of color—with career and education pathways through partnerships with local organizations across the country. Led by Jobs for the Future (JFF) in collaboration with the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions, the organizations brought together a cross-sector collaborative in specific communities to improve outcomes for young people, with special attention paid to those who are homeless, and in or transitioning from the foster care and/or juvenile justice systems.
Opportunity Works was funded through a federal Social Innovation Fund award with generous match funding from private philanthropy and other foundations. In a new report, JFF highlights lessons learned from the initiative, which is based on the organization’s “Back on Track” model to reconnect opportunity youth.
Opportunity Works supported seven communities (Boston, Hartford, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Santa Clara, CA, and South King County, WA) to reconnect opportunity youth with education and employment on-ramps and pathways that could dramatically improve their futures.
Opportunity Works served more than 2,000 teens and young adults. Its successes include:
• More than 800 individuals earned a high school credential
• Nearly 1,000 participants enrolled in postsecondary education or training
• Almost half of all participants were young men of color
This graphic details information on the demographic served:
At each site, the initiative focused on opportunity youth with different needs: those who were out of school and hadn’t earned a high school credential; and those with a high school credential who had no postsecondary education, training, or prospects for full-time work with adequate pay.
The report details these four strategies for success through the Opportunity Works initiative:
1. Place community-based organizations at the center and provide coaching to enhance their expertise
2. Find the sweet spot of a guiding model that’s not too loose, and not too tight
3. Deliver quality programming through skilled, caring staff and strong partnerships with education and training organizations that prioritize young adults
4. Plan from day one to sustain and scale the work
To learn more about Opportunity Works, read the full report here.
Learn more about Opportunity Works at JFF here.