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Piloting and Scaling Career Coaching for Opportunity Youth in LA County

Updated: Mar 4

Executive Summary

BIPOC opportunity youth—or Black, Indigenous, people of color who are young adults not enrolled in school and not currently working—face persistent challenges in the labor market. To support the career trajectories of BIPOC opportunity youth, the USC Price Center for Social Innovation and LeadersUp, a non-profit talent developer, piloted a career coaching program for BIPOC opportunity youth in LA County.

Opportunity Youth
One of our nine opportunity youth participants who attended our pilot session.

The program, delivered virtually with on-site tech support, took place over four weeks and included modules on resume writing, interviewing, networking, and identifying personal strengths. The program's goal was to increase young adults’ career readiness and their sense of self-efficacy around their careers.


Motivated by our previous research conducted with the USC Sol Price Center for Social Innovation to Accelerate Fair Chance Hiring Among Los Angeles Employers, this project sought to pilot a career readiness program to increase young adults’ career readiness and their sense of self-efficacy around their careers.

LeadersUp Career Coach providing mentorship to opportunity youth from Brotherhood Crusade.

Below is the additional background used to support and inform the learnings of this project:

  1. BIPOC young adults face discriminatory hiring practices that limit job opportunities, even in entry-level positions (Pager 2003).

  2. BIPOC young adults endure the consequences of structural racism in the criminal-legal and education system, which limit labor market opportunities (Boen et al. 2022; Haskins and Turney 2018; Owens 2022). For instance, Black and Latino students disproportionately experience school discipline, net of behavioral differences (Owens 2022). They also disproportionately endure criminal-legal contact (Boen et al. 2022; Jackson et al. 2021) and the incarceration of a loved one (Haskins and Turney 2018).

  3. Past experiences with structural racism may discourage BIPOC young adults’ labor market participation or planning. For instance, criminal legal contact among young adults—a form of institutional contact that is disproportionately borne by Black and Latino adults—is associated with lower  future orientation, a measure of future planning that is associated with positive health, educational, and occupational outcomes (Testa et al. 2022).


To answer the research questions, the Price Center partnered with LeadersUp, a non-profit talent developer for minoritized job seekers, to pilot a career coaching program for opportunity youth. The original pilot aimed to work with an employer partner to deploy a career coaching program for 10 to 15 BIPOC opportunity youth who were recently hired at their organization. Career coaches would be employee volunteers, and the program curriculum would focus on upward career mobility within the company.

Method utilized in throughout this pilot included:

  • Participant Recruitment

  • Revising the Pilot

  • Surveys

  • Interviews

  • Co-design session, and

  • An analysis of the data and insights collected

Jeffery T.D. Wallace with opportunity youth participants from the Brotherhood Crusade.

Findings from Opportunity Youth Voices

Surveys and interviews with nine opportunity youth participants and seven coaches suggest three main findings related to the program structure and opportunities for the greatest impact.

  1. Opportunity youth deeply preferred in-person vs. virtual programming to provide opportunities to share and connect.

  2. Opportunity youth expressed high levels of confidence related to applying for jobs and interviewing, even before participating in the program.

  3. This confidence might be related to the opportunity for youth to find jobs through their social ties, which are more likely to connect them to work in low-wage industries.

Based on these three findings, we recommend that future career coaching programs take place in person, focus on expanding participants’ networks, and develop skills such as resume writing and interviewing.


Targeted career coaching programs have the potential to improve the career trajectories of BIPOC opportunity youth, who are often pushed out of the labor market or churn through positions in low-wage industries. We conclude by outlining several outstanding questions that could direct future work on the promise of career coaching to support the careers of BIPOC opportunity youth.

We learned that instead of an external organization coming in to deliver the career coaching content, the most notable return on investment (ROI) is achieved through the coaching assets themselves. By leveraging a trusted talent development partner, such as the Brotherhood Crusade, which already has trust and relationships with young adults and Opportunity Youth (OY), practitioners and intermediaries like LeadersUp can design career coaching assets that truly focus on the core of what the surveyed participants want—networking. This is also exemplified in the LeadersUp Career Exploration MeetUp Series, where we bring in employers from high-growth industries and sectors for transformative and radically transparent conversations with young adults in an Ask Me Anything (AMA) style.

A second observation is that co-design and collaboration sessions with trusted partners can be easily integrated into current curriculum like the staff at the Brotherhood Crusade’s professional development workshops they are already leading. 

Leveraging approaches like this helped us avoid over-programming syndrome, a challenge we know OY and young adults often experience." LeadersUp, formatted templates, and current career exploration MeetUp series offer access to what practitioners have identified as a gap, that being the relationships and connections to directly to employers and also to the high-growth sectors that young adults and OY are interested in.


USC SOL Price Center For Social Innovation

Caroline Bhalla, Executive Director, USC Neighborhood Data for Social Change

Dr. Steven Schmidt, Postdoctoral Fellow, USC Department of Sociology

Ruth McCormack, Project Specialist, USC Neighborhood Data for Social Change

Priya Ranganath, Graduate Research Assistant, USC Neighborhood Data for Social Change

Dr. Gary Painter, Director, University of Cincinnati Real Estate Center

Cameron Yap, Data Analyst, USC Neighborhood Data for Social Change

Dr. Megan Goulding, Director of Strategic Operations, USC Institute of Inequalities in Global Health

Jarryd Bethea, MPP


Crissy Chung, Manager, Insights & Experience

Denny Esquival, Sr. Manager, Solutions

Emmanuel Kashimbiri, Manager, People & Culture

Jeffrey Wallace, Founder & CEO

John Roberson III, Chief of Staff, Stakeholder Engagement

Dr. Karen Baptiste, LeadersUp, Executive-in-Residence

Katie Ho, Sr. Manager, Solutions

Virgess Way, Director, Talent Development

Zhen Xie, Director, Insights & Experience, Product Design

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