2023 Grants Challenge

Enhancing Career Pathways for Transition-Age Foster Youth

First Place for Youth connects transition-age foster youth to high-quality careers that will improve their economic independence through our Steps to Success program and evidence-based Apprenticeship Model. Through strategic partnerships with industry leaders in high-growth sectors such as construction, healthcare, and information technology, First Place equips youth to enter the workforce with a competitive edge in the labor market, and the skillset needed to advance towards living-wage careers.?


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Support for Foster and Systems-Impacted Youth

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

Central LA

East LA

San Gabriel Valley

South LA

West LA

South Bay

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

While in foster care, youth are moved from one foster home to another and from one school to another, and these repeated displacements interrupt their educational progress and limit the ability to build skills for living independently. Foster youth encounter barriers to success including dropping out of school, unemployment, early pregnancy, and incarceration, and given that 50% experience homelessness after leaving care, it is clear that providing temporary shelter without support to develop skills for long-term independence does not solve chronic poverty. A rapidly changing economic environment makes addressing these disparities and providing pathways to a living-wage particularly urgent. Lower-skill jobs that don't require a post-secondary degree or credential have shifted with increasing automation, and between 2014 and 2024 nearly half of?all?job openings will be middle-skill jobs which require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

First Place's Steps to Success Education & Employment Program supports foster youth?with?career-focused programming to?help them gain the fundamental skills needed to compete in a growing job market and realize long-term self-sufficiency. The program addresses the systemic barriers that have often prevented foster youth from achieving meaningful economic mobility. After first stabilizing youth with safe housing, they are paired with an Education & Employment Specialist and Social Worker to develop personalized career goals and receive support in receiving their high school diploma, enrolling in and navigating postsecondary education, and building job readiness skills such as resume creation and job interview techniques. First Place recognizes that in today's changing economic climate we must refine our program model to ensure we are preparing young people to move beyond their first jobs and succeed in family-sustaining careers, and therefore have introduced the evidence-based Apprenticeship Model which serves as an alternative option to the traditional AA/BA postsecondary education. The model connects youth with opportunities in high growth career sectors and promotes youth progress through?on-the-job-training, career-focused education, industry-recognized credentials, and employment skills.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Los Angeles County is home to one-third of California's foster youth - our ultimate vision for these young people is to have?equitable?access to an?ecosystem of education, employment, healthy living,?and housing opportunities necessary for transitioning into?thriving, independent adults. Individualized support solutions provided through Steps to Success, which includes comprehensive education and employment services, have proven to significantly alter the trajectory of a young person's life by providing the resources and relationships to become self-sufficient. This intentional approach aims to prepare youth for the workforce, increase youth's competitiveness in the labor market, and progress towards family-sustaining job opportunities. The program ensures youth receive the necessary training to be competitive in the job market while connecting them to opportunities to earn a living wage.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Since inception, First Place has incorporated evaluation into our program model, ensuring our approach is grounded in data and evidence. Our customized performance management?database allows us to monitor and evaluate the efficacy of specific interventions, determine the best approach for each youth, and make real-time improvements to our programs.?Our recently launched Youth Roadmap Tool uses data science to generate individualized plans of recommended services and milestones for each young person we serve, and the impact of our services is demonstrated by the critical milestones youth reach while in our program. Last year in Los Angeles County, we served 218 young people who achieved?the following positive outcomes:?91% of youth exited into safe and stable housing; 94% of youth who did not have a high school diploma received theirs or made significant progress towards this goal;?84% of eligible youth successfully enrolled in postsecondary education;?80% of youth obtained employment.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 200

Indirect Impact: 1,400