Ranisha waits for a presentation to begin at the TalentPath launch event

Through innovative partnerships with employers and training programs, First Place is helping foster youth move from unemployment to their first jobs and on to meaningful careers. This year, five First Place participants and alumni successfully completed a certificate program in User Experience (UX) Design through TalentPath.

In our digital-driven world, UX Designers ensure the websites, apps, and programs we use meet our needs in function and form. The demand for skilled designers means those who enter the field have great potential for earnings and long-term growth. This is especially true in California, where many of the world’s leading tech firms and innovative start-ups are headquartered. By creating partnerships that offer our participants entry into diverse technology careers, we are giving them not only a path to economic independence, but the chance to find work that is personally fulfilling and well suited to their strengths and interests.

“I liked the foundational work the best,” says Ranisha, a recent First Place Alum and TalentPath graduate, about her favorite aspect of working in UX Design so far. “Talking to people and recording and analyzing our research to get to our final product at the end of the day.”

What is TalentPath?

A project of Treehouse, a training platform focused on improving diversity and equity in technology, the TalentPath program creates connections between leading technology employers and community organizations that work with populations traditionally underrepresented in the field to create new diverse talent pipelines. Participants receive training in one of several coding or design fields to prepare them for paid apprenticeships with a corporate partner. This apprenticeship has the potential to convert to permanent, full-time employment.

Over spring and summer, the First Place cohort progressed through 10 increasingly complex projects. Each project’s lessons supported the development of necessary skills and knowledge. Participants received coaching in both the practical foundations of creating satisfying user experiences—research, prototyping, design tools, imagery and typography selection—and in building “soft” skills for employment success like effective collaboration, task management, and responding appropriately to feedback. This combined curriculum ensured that participants would be work-place ready upon the completion of the program.

With their capstone portfolios complete, participants presented their work to Treehouse instructors and Adobe staff for evaluation. Based on the work throughout the course and their submitted portfolios, Ranisha and Jerah were selected for a three-month paid apprenticeship at Adobe in San Francisco.

First Place youth and staff pose with Treehouse and Adobe representatives at the TalentPath launch event in February 2019.

Continuing Her Climb

For Ranisha, who joined First Place when she was 20 years old and experiencing homelessness, earning the Adobe apprenticeship is just the latest milestone on a path toward lasting success.

Ranisha and her Youth Advocate, Amy, meeting in 2016.

At a point in her life when she was going through great stress and turmoil, First Place offered Ranisha much needed safety and stability. Once she settled in her apartment, she began making the most of First Place’s supports to prepare for her future. In a video profile filmed shortly after she joined our program, Ranisha shared that First Place was equipping her not just with the practical skills for success, but also with the emotional tools she needed to work through the lingering effects of past challenges.

Building a stronger foundation of emotional well-being allowed Ranisha to look forward and begin identifying and working toward her long-term goals, even as she managed the responsibilities of motherhood. Supported by her Education and Employment Specialist, she re-enrolled in college and began coursework in sociology. Ranisha also secured an apartment through one of our affordable housing partners, ensuring she would be able to maintain her stability after leaving First Place.

Ranisha was a deeply involved and energetic member of the First Place community throughout her time in program. A familiar face around the office and a regular presence at workshops and events, Ranisha was always eager to share her wisdom and offer advice and encouragement to others. And at the end of her time in our program, Ranisha earned a paid internship opportunity within the organization supporting a youth-driven research project.

“Lots of programs say they help, but First Place really does,” Ranisha says. “It’s all about what you put into it. For me, it was about making connections, being able to have serious conversations and get to know people, and all the learning opportunities. Always being able to better myself.”

Looking Forward

Ranisha’s commitment to continual learning is clear. While her apprenticeship at Adobe has opened new doors and introduced her to a new possible career path, she remains focused on completing her associate’s degree as planned.

“It’s a lot,” she admits, talking about taking on the apprenticeship while also going to school and being an attentive parent. “But it’s my last semester for my associate’s and I really want to get it done so I can focus on what’s next.”

What’s next will include more school, though Ranisha acknowledges that her approach to college may have to adjust if her apprenticeship leads to a full-time job offer, “I might not be able to keep taking classes full time like I’ve been doing, but I’ll keep going part time and working toward my bachelor’s and then my master’s.”

Ranisha and her son attend a First Place holiday party