Knowing is Half the Battle: How Well are We Preparing Students for Careers?

A number of students graduate high school each year without an active understanding of possible career paths and/or how to best pursue them. Still, high impact career readiness programs, such as work-based learning and industry-recognized credentialing, touch only a small portion of students. We will conduct a formal gap analysis that enables policymakers, foundations, labor organizations, employers, and the broader community to understand the extent of the need, creating urgency to develop solutions and secure investments to close it.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

County of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Research (initial work to identify and understand the problem)

What is the need you’re responding to?

A number of students graduate high school every year without a basic understanding of the career paths available to them and/or how to pursue them. The impact includes disengaged students that can't “connect the dots” between their academic studies and future careers, confusion about which major to pursue if moving on to higher education, and an inability to land a quality job after high school graduation if not. A joint UCLA and Claremont study found that 1 in 3 LAUSD students will not go on to higher education, and only 1 in 4 will earn a college degree in 6 years.

While schools, nonprofits, and employers provide high impact career readiness programs, such as Career and Technical Education and work-based learning, our hypothesis is that the number of students participating relative to the overall student population is low. A formal assessment will enable stakeholders to understand the extent of that gap, creating urgency to develop solutions and secure investments to close it.

Why is this project important to the work of your organization?​

Critical to a strong economy is a strong workforce, yet data consistently confirms skill gaps for high quality occupations, while students graduate without the basic skills to pursue them. Defining the roots of this challenge in our K-12 system, where career readiness programs are limited, will create urgency to act. With a cross-sector membership of regional leaders, we can secure the introductions and credibility to ensure participation from K-12 leaders, labor, and business. This network will also provide the distribution system for the report, and a basis for organizing a path forward.

The Coalition has a strong record leading regional partnerships, while publishing thought leadership respected by top leaders. For example, the Coalition partnered with the LA Mayor's Office in 2015 to bring together private and public sector talent to reform the City’s operational business systems, and with the McKinsey Global Institute in 2019 to publish a tool kit to close LA's housing gap.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?​

Direct Impact: 1,000

Indirect Impact: 500,000

Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.

Several stakeholder groups will be impacted by this gap analysis. In addition to creating a shared understanding of how well our region is delivering programming to K-12 students, it will:

-Educate elected officials on where policy and funding changes are needed.

-Provide employers with a strong talent pipeline.

-Enable nonprofits that deliver impactful programs to make the case to funders for expansion.

-Enable grant makers to understand the extent of the challenge and commit to funding solutions.

-Ultimately provide more students with the opportunity to pursue a high quality career path.

With 1.6 million students in the region, at least 500,000 could be indirectly impacted by the actions stakeholders above take over the next 5-10 years.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

Our long-term vision of success is all students graduating from high school demonstrating a foundational level of career readiness to ultimately pursue high quality jobs in demand by our region's employers. First, we have to understand the extent of the gap in workforce readiness programming in our schools. To that end, we ultimately define success of this project as a heightened awareness and urgency to close the gap by key stakeholder groups. This will be measured by:

-The number of networks with which the final report is shared, e.g. school districts, foundation networks such as SCG, employer networks such as Chambers of Commerce, nonprofit networks; where possible, track the number of views

-The number of op-eds and media mentions

-Target at least 10 organizations with a high volume of website traffic to share the report

-Number of live and post-recording webinar views

We are committed to highlighting these statistics in our annual report and to our formal briefings to our board.

Which of the LEARN metrics will your submission impact?​

Enrollment in afterschool programs

College graduates

Community college completion

Are there any other LA2050 goal categories that your proposal will impact?​

LA is the best place to CREATE

LA is the best place to CONNECT

Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?​

Access to the LA2050 community

Host public events or gatherings

Communications support

Strategy assistance and implementation