Big Ideas, Bright Cities Challenge

2023 Winner and Finalists

This year, hundreds of organizations from across the US submitted their big ideas and projects to empower young people with much-needed skills to join the workforce and close the growing youth skills gap.

With generous support from Dell Technologies and Deloitte, we selected 15 organizations as finalists for creating Skills-Friendly Cities.

The Southern California College Attainment Network (SoCal CAN) is the Winner of the 2023 Big Ideas, Bright Cities Challenge. SoCal CAN will receive a $100,000 grant to scale up its work in partnership with the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) to provide comprehensive college and career advice to public housing residents.

For the next year, all 15 organizations will be part of an incubator program to share leading practices and connect with business and city leaders invested in youth skills development. Read below to discover how these 15 finalist organizations are helping young people succeed. 

Locations & name map of 2023 winners & finalists of the Skills Friendly Cities Big Ideas, Bright Cities challenge.

Map of Skills Friendly Cities – 2023


Achieve Twin Cities | Minneapolis, Minnesota

Achieve Twin Cities equips Minneapolis and Saint Paul youth for careers, college, and life. In partnership with Minneapolis Public Schools and Saint Paul Public Schools, local city government, businesses, and community organizations, Achieve Twin Cities provides high school students and young graduates with career readiness experiences, 1:1 and group advising, and paid internship opportunities with local employers.


ACLAMO | Norristown, Pennsylvania

ACLAMO is a community service organization that provides education, social services, and access to health programs to Latinos and others. ACLAMO is building skills through its Youth Mentoring and Career Development program, which provides literacy, math, and science mentoring, tutoring, and homework support, as well as S.T.E.A.M-focused enrichment activities to students who are learning English. And their Summer Bridge helps students use vacation time for academic enrichment and connects local business owners and community leaders with students to inform them about different career paths in STEAM Fields.


All Stars Project | New York, NY

Through the developmental power of performance, All Stars Project (ASP) transforms the lives of youth from poor and underserved communities in partnership with caring adults, giving everyone the opportunity to grow. ASP is on the forefront of building community by bridging racial, economic, and social divisions to develop a caring 21st Century America. Each year, ASP afterschool development programs involve 10,000 underserved young people and their families in a variety of developmental programs and experiences that help transform their lives and communities.


America Needs You | New York, NY / Los Angeles, CA

America Needs You works for economic mobility for first-generation college students, providing mentorship and intensive career development. Their Fellows Program is a two-year initiative to help these students prepare to transition into careers through one-on-one mentorship, connections to paid internships and networks, and support, including counseling and financial aid. The program has worked in several places and is now expanding in Los Angeles.


Café Momentum | Dallas, Texas

Café Momentum provides justice-involved youth with an ecosystem of support that provides workforce development and life skills through a paid culinary training program in their downtown Dallas restaurant, access to mental health services, one-to-one case management, and a tailored path to high school graduation. Café Momentum works with youth to identify, develop, and hone their skills while providing resources to overcome the obstacles Dallas’ most marginalized youth face. They partner with organizations and businesses within the community to provide employment and education opportunities upon completion of the Café Momentum program.


Cincinnati Youth Collaborative | Cincinnati, Ohio

The Cincinnati Youth Collaborative helps young people overcome academic, career, and life barriers through mentoring, college preparation, and workforce readiness programs in collaboration with local school districts, businesses, and community organizations. The group aims to make Cincinnati known as “America’s #1 Mentoring City,” creating a diverse workforce pipeline and connecting disadvantaged people across generations.


Hopeworks 'N Camden | Camden, New Jersey

Hopeworks is dedicated to guiding young adults in the greater Philadelphia region into living wage careers through skill development, real-world job experience at Hopeworks-owned businesses, and care for those who have experienced trauma. Their “Recode Your Future” training program provides unemployed young adults with opportunities in computer-aided design, web design, and data visualization, along with academic support and career readiness coaching.


The LEAH Project | Boston, Massachusetts

The LEAH Project develops and evaluates solutions to improve the health of different populations in the Boston area. Through their Leaders through Education, Action, and Hope (LEAH) Project, they are helping young people, especially Black, Indigenous, and people of color, to diversify the science, technology, engineering, and math fields through paid STEM internships, college and career readiness programming, and youth leadership opportunities.


Junior Achievement of Southwest New England, Inc. | Hartford, Connecticut

Junior Achievement of Southwest New England is tackling some of Greater Hartford’s biggest challenges, helping prepare the next generation workforce for rewarding careers paired with strong financial literacy skills. JA uses business and community volunteers to work with schools, businesses, governments, and community organizations to arm young people with skills for their future. Their initiatives include Career Connections for Young Women, Entrepreneurial Academies where students start and run real businesses, an Innovation Challenge styled as a “Shark Tank” competition, and a “Stock Market Challenge.”


Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network Inc. | Cleveland, Ohio

Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network Inc. (MAGNET) expands pathways from high school to manufacturing jobs in the Cleveland area. To make the region more skills-friendly, they are engaging students through tours at their Manufacturing Innovation, Technology, and Job Center, building skills through a high school training program, and establishing connections with local employers. The program aims to help fill thousands of open manufacturing jobs in Cuyahoga County and develop a network of student ambassadors with the skills for these jobs.


MyPath Mahoning Valley | Warren, Ohio

MyPath Mahoning Valley and their partner Youngstown Works collaborate with nonprofit agencies and educational institutions dedicated to workforce preparation to help students pursue a range of pathways after high school, including college, career, and technical training. The organization offers career assessments, training, and job recruiting, especially in underserved areas. The group is connecting employers with people who need jobs and training.


Southern California College Attainment Network | Los Angeles, California

SoCal CAN’s mission is to increase access to and completion of post-secondary education for underrepresented students through collective action. Project SOAR, a partnership between SoCal CAN and the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA), provides comprehensive college and career advice to public housing residents, focusing on breaking the cycle of poverty.


The Center for Teen Empowerment | Somerville, Massachusetts

The Center for Teen Empowerment trains and empowers young people for employment. They are partnering with the City of Sommerville, Mass in creating a youth development model for people of color that draws on the skills of trained peers. These paid youth leaders address employment, education, health disparities, and gun violence. They collaborate with small businesses, including arts groups and other nonprofits, to train youth in job readiness, offer mentorships, and provide on-the-job apprenticeships.


United for College | Career Success | Houston, Texas

United for College|Career Success serves young people in the greater Houston (Texas) area, using research, technology, and data to help underserved learners obtain meaningful credentials and careers with upward mobility. They are creating strategic partnerships, a gamified technology app, and engaging youth as leaders to advise peers. They work with the City of Houston Education Department and the Hire Houston Youth initiative.


Youth Job Center | Evanston, Illinois

Youth Job Center (YJC) is a workforce development and job placement organization that serves young people throughout Cook County, IL. The organization equips youth with the skills they need to contribute to the economy and tackle challenges they may encounter. YJC`s MySkills Paid Work Experience program immerses young people in a planned work experience with a focus on structured learning in a workplace environment for key industries of growth.


We’re thrilled to receive this extraordinary recognition. Our cities thrive when our young people thrive.

Alison De Luca, executive director of Southern California College Attainment Network

The Big Ideas, Bright Cities Challenge is supported by: