The COVID-19 pandemic left over a quarter of youth in the Greater Phoenix metro area disconnected from work and school. The Valley is considered an “opportunity desert” with areas like West Phoenix, Maryvale and Mesa seeing the highest densities of youth ages 16-24 not pursuing any educational or career opportunities.
A major part of why this is happening is inadequate access to resources that help youth land jobs and explore their career paths. Numerous Valley nonprofits are working together to address this issue and re-engage youth in our communities.
Pipeline AZ, an Arizona career development and job skills exploration platform, and Opportunities for Youth (OFY), a collaborative partnership creating a comprehensive system of opportunity that reengages the valley’s disconnected youth for employment and education opportunities, announced it has been selected for one of Valley of the Sun United Way’s 2022 Workforce Development grants. The grant awards Pipeline AZ and OFY $95,000 to co-lead an 18-month initiative to benefit youth and young adults ages 16 – 24 who are not working or in school. The new Opportunity Youth Pipeline AZ platform will increase access to education and employment opportunities such as hands-on, work-based learning, apprenticeships, and mentoring experiences.
The Greater Phoenix Metro Area ranks 76 out of 99 major metro areas nationally in youth disconnection. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 11.9% of youth ages 16 – 24 were disconnected from work in school in the Greater Phoenix Metro Area and did not have adequate access to education and workforce opportunities. By May 2020, that figure had jumped to 25% overall and higher for low-income, disabled, and racial/ethnic minority communities.
“Maricopa County has one of the country’s highest concentrations of young people not working and not in school,” said Maritza Valenzuela, Program Director of Opportunities for Youth. “This population is also called opportunity youth because of the economic and social potential they hold. Opportunities for Youth is proud to partner with Pipeline AZ to develop resources that will reengage the Valley’s disconnected youth and help them attain success in education, career and life.”
The project’s goals are to increase the number of youth in the community who obtain employment or who enroll in and complete a training program.
“Pipeline AZ and Opportunities for Youth are the perfect partners to help the young people in our community get connected to local career opportunities and build a foundation for success,” said Melissa Boydston, Ed.D, Vice President of Community Development and Engagement at Valley of the Sun United Way. “Combining OFY’s network of over 80 public, private and nonprofit partnerships and Pipeline AZ’s online employment ecosystem, we’ll be able to make an impact on reducing the rate of youth disconnection from career opportunities once they’re out of school.”
The Opportunity Youth Pipeline AZ platform also will develop technology that facilitates job training, matching, and exploration, and provide case managers with tools to help youth explore industries and careers, apply for jobs, and complete learning experiences. Overall, the project will connect hundreds of underserved youth and young adults with local employers.
“Pipeline AZ aims for equitable access to career exploration opportunities, which is why we’re happy to join forces with Opportunities for Youth and target those disproportionately impacted by Greater Phoenix’s rural and urban opportunity deserts,” said Katherine Pappas, Pipeline AZ Director of Workforce Strategy. “We’re looking forward to tapping into the potential of our community’s youth and young adults and helping them plan for a successful future.”
Pipeline AZ is an initiative of the Partnership for Economic Innovation, a passionate collective of business and community leaders dedicated to accelerating Arizona’s economic opportunities. The work of Pipeline AZ is made possible in part by the Maricopa County Industrial Development Authority. Job seekers of any age and experience can connect with employers at pipelineaz.com.