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Empower LA

About 1,500 foster youth age out of Los Angeles’ child welfare system each year. Within one year one fifth will be arrested or incarcerated. Within two years half will be unemployed. California had 132,785 prison inmates at the end of 2012, and each one cost approximately $47,421 a year. Parolees face unemployment rates of 70-80%, and many lack the personal and professional skills to succeed. Working with both of these populations along with individuals who have come out of homelessness, Empower LA’s culinary job training program provides opportunities for employment in the foodservice industry.

Throughout the 14-week training program, students will participate in a variety of hands-on culinary training, self-empowerment programs and local internships. Dynamic lessons from Executive Chef Instructors, Industry Professionals and Volunteer Chefs de Cuisine provide hands-on experience. On-staff MSW Social Worker, Nutritionist and Workforce Developer will focus on the needs of students through Life Skills, Professional Development and Nutrition classes. This transformative program combining emancipated foster youth and older adults transitioning out of incarceration will both help reduce systemic patterns of recidivism and increase employment probabilities for all participants.

Partners who’ve hired 3 or more students: 
> 3 Kaiser
> 3 Wood & Vine
> 4 Kitchen Mouse
> 6 Patina at the CA Endowment
> 12 Strong Food (in last 2 years)
Improvements:
>Quarterly departmental retreats to allow for program evaluation 
>Online alumni job board. 30+ jobs posted per month 
>Started collecting data in each class to increase social impact measures
>Instituted a sign off packet to increase retention of skills per employer feedback. Packet has 40 skills students learn to compete as an entry-level cook
>Two Culinary Olympics where students demonstrate skills 
Biggest challenge for students:
>Fear of success
>Battling identity (old self vs. new self)
>Re-integration into society from incarceration & homelessness 

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