Grantee Spotlight: SLATE-Z

How one community in South LA came together to create living-wage jobs

SLATE-Z set a target of moving 10,000 people into living-wage jobs by 2026. They’ve already reached 3,400 in the first two years.

By Nina Revoyr, Executive Director - Los Angeles

Los Angeles is investing more than $200 billion in public infrastructure such as housing, transit, parks, bridges, and sewers. This is creating new jobs in some of the city’s highest-need neighborhoods, but there is a gap between the kinds of skills that are required and the preparedness of many residents.

Nowhere is this truer than in South Los Angeles, where the poverty rate is 46%. South L.A. also has the highest percentage of foster youth in the County, 40% of all formerly incarcerated youth, and the highest rates of homelessness. In addition, violent crime rates are double the city-wide figure.

Community leaders and elected officials in South Los Angeles recognized this mix of need and opportunity. Led by Los Angeles Trade-Technical College—a national model in career and technical education—they identified an area incorporating 200,000 people around the Metro lines to leverage access to jobs and transportation. They worked with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to change eligibility requirements for federal Promise Zones—which provide preference points for federal funding in high-need areas—so they wouldn’t be stacked against dense urban cities like Los Angeles. These efforts led to their winning a Promise Zone designation in 2016—the second in Los Angeles.

SLATE-Z, or the South Los Angeles Transit Empowerment Zone, is a place-based collective impact effort with goals in the areas of jobs, economic activity, education, public safety, and transit. But in a community that has borne decades of disinvestment, with an unemployment rate of more than 12%, SLATE-Z is all about jobs. SLATE-Z consists of a backbone organization that coordinates more than 50 partners – including universities, government services, and numerous nonprofits and civic organizations – all committed to creating clear links between people who need jobs, and employers who need workers. Just as crucially, SLATE-Z elevates the community: it represents a coalition between African-American and Latino leaders and community members and reflects and responds to resident input.

SLATE-Z partners ensure that people in its service area have paths to opportunity: whether that’s by ensuring access to academic supports or services at its partner schools and nonprofits, or by finding, recruiting, and referring people for job training programs. There are guided pathways linking training in such areas as construction and health care to jobs at the end, crucial in a community where nearly half of all people older than 25 have less than a high school education. Thanks to agreements with employers and trade unions, residents who go through these programs are matched with a job. One shining example is the new Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, whose board chose the museum’s location partly because it was within the boundaries of SLATE-Z. 

In partnership with the Weingart Foundation, Ballmer Group provided general operating support so that SLATE-Z could hire strong leadership staff and serve as the backbone for this effort. We also support several of the partner organizations. Since then, more funders have joined.

SLATE-Z demonstrates the power of bringing together partners to focus on data and a set of measurable outcomes to improve the lives of a community’s residents. Along with other L.A. place-based collective impact efforts such as the first Los Angeles Promise Zone, two Promise Neighborhoods, Promesa Boyle Heights, and the Home for Good homelessness collaborative, it is producing impressive results. And just as exciting, these groups are starting to come together—both to learn from each other and to begin the discussion about how such efforts, if coordinated, might create an even bigger impact in the County as a whole.