Opportunity Youth Timeline


Workforce development is a method of improving the local economy by investing in people instead of directly into businesses. It looks to remove the barriers that might be in place for particular groups and devises a strategy to remove those barriers either through policy and systemic changes or skills development and training. Over the past decade, one population has emerged to become the focus of many workforce development programs: Opportunity Youth.

Opportunity Youth are young adults ages 16-24 who are not in school and are not working. They are “Opportunity Youth” because they are both seeking opportunity in the job market and offering an opportunity for local organizations to invest in them to become the workforce of tomorrow. This group needs to be engaged and connected by providing them with chances for career exploration, job-based experiences, skill development, and training. Partners have already seen positive outcomes from their work connecting these youth to their future career paths, including a 17% decrease in the youth disconnection rate (2010-2018).



  • 211 San Diego
  • Cajon Valley Union School District
  • County of San Diego
  • Institute for Public Strategies
  • Junior Achievement of San Diego County
  • Just in Time for Foster Youth
  • Logan Heights Community Development Corporation
  • National City Chamber of Commerce
  • RISE San Diego
  • San Diego Unified School District
  • San Diego Workforce Partnership
  • South Bay Community Services
  • South County Economic Development Council
  • Urban Corps of San Diego County
  • YMCA of San Diego County

With our changing world, partners have been and will continue to create innovative ways to meet people where they are to get them working. Looking to the future, partners will need to help Opportunity Youth adapt to changing worksites, including working remotely. They will need to address racial disparities when it comes to access to opportunity, including taking a second look at the policies and practices inherent in the systems where we work. Collaborations between schools, government, non-profits and the business community will continue to improve the skills and ability of our emerging workforce and help grow our region’s economy.


Partner Success Stories

CONNECT2Careers Addresses Workforce Skills Gap

San Diego Workforce Partnership’s CONNECT2Careers is an innovative youth employment program that addresses San Diego’s ongoing skills gap by providing meaningful, real-life work experiences that prepare young adults for in-demand jobs.  They help identify possible career paths to provide appropriate work readiness training and help participants develop marketable skills for employment.

A special program supported by the County of San Diego provided subsidized externships for in-school youth during their school winter and spring breaks. Another involves paid internships for young adults living in Southeastern San Diego neighborhoods to develop a pipeline of talented and prepared candidates qualified to apply for future open recruitments for entry-level positions within the County of San Diego.  The development of a skilled workforce is vital for improving a region’s economy, as individuals unprepared to enter the workforce due to lack of education or training are more likely to live in poverty. 

Celebrating “I’m Ready” Empowerment
Program Graduation 

In 2019, South County Economic Development Council in partnership with the National City Chamber of Commerce celebrated the graduation of the first “I’m Ready” Program participants at Southwestern College in National City. The “I’m Ready” Program kicked off in June of 2019 and was created to support career and life readiness by providing training in leadership development, financial planning, and workforce skills for unemployed or underemployed youth of National City, Chula Vista, and Logan Heights, ages 18 to 24.

In August, 18 participants successfully completed the eight-week training program, which included accomplishments in leadership academy training, resume building, work experience in a company matching career interests, development of a personal financial plan, job readiness and life skills, and an expanded personal and professional network. Participants partook in several workshops held at the National City Chamber of Commerce and in unique internships from July 1 to August 1.

“I learned a lot in this internship, including the importance of networking and public speaking skills, and I got a chance to build my resume and grow personally and professionally. I got to see the potential in my community, South San Diego County, and how I can help develop that potential with my new skills,” said Viviana Gonzalez, I’m Ready program graduate. “As a result, I got into my first full-time job, and I am looking forward to continuing to learn and grow in my field.”

Fifteen employers around South County and San Diego County hosted “I’m Ready” interns for the duration of the program with a minimum of 24 hours of internship each, assisting as youth mentors and career readiness coaches. “I’m Ready” served as a pilot program of the Economic Vitality Work Group, a part of the Live Well San Diego South Region Leadership Team. Project partners included ACCION, County of San Diego, Institute for Public Strategies, LISC San Diego, Logan Heights Community Development Corporation, San Diego Workforce Partnership, and South Bay Community Services.

Junior Achievement Helps Students
Experience Career Opportunities

Cajon Valley Union School District AVID teacher, Elizabeth Wright has been implementing Junior Achievement programs in her classroom for over a decade, because she believes that the programs expose students to experiences and important skills that they cannot get inside of the classroom. 

The most recent program that Ms. Wright's students participated in was a Job Shadow at The UPS Store. Ms. Wright shared that the most important thing her students learned that day was that Fortune 500 companies, like the UPS Store, offer a wide variety of career opportunities. Students were able to shadow employees in many different departments of the company, really opening their eyes to potential career opportunities they have based on their skills and interests.

"I have fun while learning at the same time and know that my students find JA programs valuable and crucial for their career journey," said Ms. Wright.


FANCY in STEAM is a program coordinated by DETOUR to engage girls of color to ignite their interest in entering STEAM career fields. This initiative was developed to increase the number of girls of color studying and working in STEAM career fields. According to the San Diego Workforce Partnership, STEAM occupations in San Diego are projected to grow an average of 10% by 2021, adding over 61,000 jobs - paying an average annual salary of $83,000.

Despite this projected growth – girls of color face significant challenges getting into the field including:

  • a lack of access to specialized education,
  • cultural stereotypes surrounding the professions,
  • and a lack of exposure to career pathways out of poverty

Since 2016, 100% of FANCY in STEAM participants were accepted into 4-year universities – with over half currently studying STEAM majors.


San Diego Unified School District Pilots
Youth Opportunity Transit Passes

Youth Opportunity Passes are no-cost transit passes for youth 24 and under. They are important because they are an investment in equity, opportunities for youth, and a sustainable future. Youth Opportunity Passes eliminate the unique mobility challenges youth face—getting to school, jobs, extracurricular activities, and other early-career opportunities. 

In 2013, the San Diego Unified School District, Mid-city CAN’s Improving Transportation in City Heights team, the City of San Diego, and County of San Diego partnered to implement a Youth Opportunity Pass pilot program. The pilot program served 850 high school students who put the passes to great use, participating in extracurricular activities, securing internships, and finding employment. The high schools that received the passes were Hoover High School, Crawford High School, Lincoln High School, and San Diego High School. It was clear by the time the pilot program ended that the Youth Opportunity Passes have the potential to be an incredible investment in our future. In 2020, MTS decided to include the Youth Opportunity Pass in a proposed ballot measure that would fund no-cost transit for youth along with other critical transit projects.