North County

Partnerships Creating Career Pathways for North County Youth

BY KARA SHOEMAKER | May 24, 2021

Having a clear, realistic career plan isn’t just good for our youth, it’s good for our community. Many teens struggle to figure out “what they want to do when they grow up,” as do a large portion of college graduates. As adults, many leave Santa Barbara County altogether in search of employment and more affordable housing, while others stay to jump from one low-paying, entry-level job to the next, struggling to cover the costs of basic needs like rent, groceries, and child care.

To build a more resilient community, the Santa Barbara Foundation (SBF) is developing strategies to support youth in Lompoc, Guadalupe, Santa Ynez Valley, and the Santa Maria Valley, helping them build job skills through effective workforce development that will allow them to live and thrive in Santa Barbara County. SBF has awarded a total of $286,675 since 2019 to several organizations, including Get Focused, Stay Focused, Allan Hancock College, and the Boys & Girls Club of Mid Central Coast, who are working collaboratively to create career pathways for North County students.

“These partnerships enhance our communities by increasing post-secondary outreach to families and providing our local youth with the necessary skills, information, and resources to complete high school, succeed in their educational path, and become competitive in the workforce – improving quality of life in our community,” said Petra Gomez, Santa Barbara Foundation Program Manager.

Whether students are planning on attending community college, a four-year university, or a career technical education path, Get Focused, Stay Focused helps each student create their own 10-year career-life plan. This includes skill assessment, financial literacy courses, and comprehensive professional development and support. Students participate in the program all four years of high school, and work with guidance counselors and teachers to modify the plan each year as the student develops. SBF awarded Get Focused with a $50,000 Workforce Development grant to support these efforts.

AHC’s Hancock Promise program helps remove the barrier of cost by providing local high school graduates with a year of free tuition.

Get Focused perfectly complements the workforce development efforts coordinated by Allan Hancock College (AHC), a public community college located in Santa Maria. AHC’s Bulldog Bound program engages students even earlier, focusing on creating a college-going culture among fifth- through eighth-grade students and their families. The program introduces Lompoc and Santa Maria-area students to AHC’s educational opportunities, the campus, and the programs and services available through early outreach events, like Career Carnivals. This is particularly crucial for the many parents in North County who have not attended college, and may feel overwhelmed by the requirements and application process – not to mention the cost. AHC received a $25,000 grant from SBF in 2020 to support these programs and increase outreach to parents and students.

In addition, AHC offers the Santa Maria Valley community career guidance and support through its Career Center.

“At the Allan Hancock College Career Center, our motto is ‘Start here. Go anywhere.’ Our fundamental belief is that career development is a lifelong process and our Career Center staff are committed to providing Career Services, Counseling and programs that support current students, alumni and community members,” said Thomas Lamica, Career Center Director at AHC. “We exist to prepare students to succeed in our local workforce while pursuing career goals.”

The Boys & Girls Club of Mid Central Coast is also helping Santa Maria and Guadalupe students prepare for careers through their Job Ready program. It offers students an array of virtual classes and conferences that expose youth to different career opportunities, including the recent Career Launch Watch Parties series, sponsored by SBF.

But as we have seen, the pandemic has drastically shifted employment in our county. Tourism and hospitality, our largest industry, was hit hard, while the agriculture industry experienced growth. In order to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on our economy and the future of employment, SBF contributed nearly $27,000 toward a countywide COVID-19 Workforce Impact Report that was conducted in collaboration with the Santa Barbara County Workforce Development Board. The results of this study have been recently published, and will be used to inform county partners in workforce development.

Santa Barbara Foundation also partnered with AHC and Get Focused, Stay Focused to host a virtual Post-Pandemic Workforce Roundtable event in April that brought together Northern Santa Barbara County employers and educators. This convening gathered key partners to discuss and explore what our workplaces will look like in the future, and how educators can best prepare students.

“Increasing the number of residents with a degree or certification is an important goal,” said Gomez, “The Santa Barbara Foundation is proud to invest in these educational partnerships to achieve living wages and career mobility for our County’s residents.”

These are just a few ways that the Santa Barbara Foundation is addressing workforce development in our county. For more information about the Foundation and our Workforce Development initiative, please visit:

Workforce Development Grant Recipients 2019-Present

Allan Hancock College Foundation $53,000*

Boys & Girls Club of Santa Maria Valley $50,000

Gateway Educational Services $22,000

Get Focused Stay Focused $50,000

Lompoc Community Education Foundation – Adult English Language Program Project $26,800*

Santa Barbara City College Foundation- PASS Program $58,000*

Santa Barbara County Workforce Development Board $26,875


*Grant awarded with support from Robert O. Dougan Fund at the Santa Barbara Foundation

Related News