Sundance Family Foundation is advancing a multi-faceted system of youth workforce development targeting young adults (age 18-24+).


 Note: No Applications are Being Accepted


The 2023 Process will be Posted April 15, 2023. 



Sundance is advancing an Earn & Learn model that supports young adults (age 18-24+) as they move from career exploration, to training, apprenticeships, supportive job entry, on-the-job retention services, and mentoring to middle-skills careers with sustainable wages. 


Sundance initiated its Earn and Learn Career Pathways grant round in 2020, awarding grants to nonprofit organizations that utilize most of the components set forth in the guidelines of our Career Pathways Model (


* Sundance is using the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to help create this specific workforce development system (SDG 8.b.1) and to attain SDG and other goals by 2030.


The Goal


The goal of  the career pathway plan is to have a young adult advance within three-five years from initial skills learning and an “Origin” occupation  to a “Gateway” occupation  to a Target career position with earnings that provide wages and benefits to sustain a growing family ($55-73,000).  


The foundation’s priority is to have this pathway be accessible to young adults (age 18-24+) from low-income communities and/or from African American, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, other ethnic and/or disability communities are attaining these positions.


* Definitions by Real Time Talent: 


Origin Occupations–Low wage (<$42,000/year), Low skill (no credential), Low demand (over 5% unemployment, low growth, low replacement demand, and/or low job postings).


Gateway Occupations–Mid-wage ($42,000 – regional average), Low-middle skills (HS diploma, some OJT), Sufficient demand (3-5% unemployment and/or high volumes of current opportunities).


Target Occupations–High wage (above regional average), High-skill (require some credential), High-demand (2/4 indicators: under 3% unemployment, higher than average 5-year growth, total 5-year demand >50% of current employment, high job posting volume) Often also high occupation gap and award gap.


Why Earn & Learn?


The Earn & Learn model focuses on the needs of young adults (age 18-24+) who are entering the workforce. Often these young adults are out of high school, disconnected from guidance counselors and career navigators. The needs of these young adults became most evident during the  COVID pandemic. 


Moving these young adults into accelerated career pathways that can lead to middle skills or gateway careers often involves guiding them into  short-term industry recognized credentialed programs, two year training programs or entry-level positions which provide apprenticeships. 


Moving from career readiness to skills training to job placement most often require partnerships and systems building between nonprofits, governmental agencies, employers, post-secondary training institutions and at times, retention support services that provide mentoring to new hires or mentoring support modules to employers.


Best Organizational Fit


The Earn & Learn model can be used by nonprofits with Youth Social Enterprises (YSE) that also work with young adults (age 18-24+) and that provide supportive training, job entry, job retention, or provide these components through established partnerships with other community providers. Earn & Learn programs for precariously housed young adults, young adults in transitional housing, and programs for young adults facing additional challenges in attaining and retaining either an origin* or entry level job are also invited to apply.


Geographic Area


Sundance Family Foundation focuses its giving to organizations whose programming benefits the residents of the 7-county Twin Cities Metro and western Wisconsin.


While applications are not accepted for geographic areas outside of those identified above, from time to time, the board may choose to fund a grant outside of this geographic area or priorities.


Application Process


Applications for Sundance’s annual grant round are accepted electronically. The Sundance Board of Directors and staff review the grants, schedule in person and virtual site visits, and write up reports for presentation at the October Board Meeting. Board funding decisions will be made by the end of October, with notifications and grant awards will be issued in early November.


Grant Guidelines


Grant applications will show evidence of partnerships and demonstrate that as a result of these supports, young adults are in: 1) an industry-recognized training program, 2) a post-secondary institution, or 3) employed in a career pathway that has clear opportunities for moving towards middle-skills careers. 


Some applicants will be able to support all  steps of the Earn & Learn process while others will focus on some of the steps but will show how, with partnerships, young adults will attain middle-skill or gateway careers which then put them on track for target careers. 


Required Grant Components


During the grant application reviews and site visits grantees will be awarded points in the following areas:


  • Guided Career Exploration
  • Social/Emotional Development with measurable outcomes*
  • Community Engagement with measurable outcomes*
  • Workforce Readiness measurable outcomes*
  • Training Certification: Short-term skills training that lead to nationally recognized credentials and which can be used for degrees
  • Structured Pathways: Paid internships to help each young person assess the business culture and their fit
  • Identified Employers: Business partners providing training and support 
  • Apprenticeships or learning programs: With paths leading to Gateway Careers
  • Mentoring and wrap around support: Examples include assistance with driver’s licenses, completing employment or other applications, and assistance to accessing housing or other needs.
  • Job Retention and Career Advancement Support: Examples include mentoring, emergency assistance with short term needs, transportation, child care, and other assistance.
  • Nonprofit Financials: Includes Budget, Year to Date Actuals) and evidence of organization and program strength and sustainability


*Note: Sundance worked for three years with Wilder Research and 16 youth-serving nonprofits to product and implement evidence based data collection surveys. These free surveys are available on Other surveys are also appropriate including DEEDs Workforce 1. 


The Indicators Sundance Will be Asking for on the Interim and Final Reports


We will be asking for these indicators, and you provide what you can. The goals are 1) to align your organization with the indicators that are being asked by county, state and federal funding sources, 2) look at the value of this Earn and Learn method over a large group of grantees, 3) see we can provide you with an SROI or any aggregate data that can help you get to larger pools of contracts and grants. Technical assistance is provided. Check all that you can support.


List Items


o   Demographic information (no personal identifiers)


o   Career Pathway Areas: 1 Career Exploration, 2 Training/Credentials, 3 Job Placement, 4 Job Retention & Advancement


o   Social Connections provided (mentors, volunteers, community events and orgs)


o   Number of youth in the program


o   Number of youth not in work or education SDG 8.6.1 (can be pre- and -post)


o   Number of youth who improved on social-emotional development (how do you know?)


o   Number of youth who improve on work readiness and professional skills development


o   Number of youth placed in employment SDG 8.5.1


o   Number of Youth in internships or mentored field work


o   Description of trainings, curriculum and certificates received (from you or another org)


o   Youth entering what career areas (ie Transportation, Agriculture, IT, Healthcare, Manufacturing)


o   Employment assistance services ( by your or another org provided while they are working)


o   Increase in earnings (during the program, after job placement)  


o   Cost per youth ($program/ #youth remember to include admin costs)


Application Acceptance and Questions are Being Reviewed for 2023


The new application process is being reviewed and will be posted by April 15, 2023. Do not submit applications prior to this date. 



Do not submit an application for 2023, until the process is reviewed and posted. 

Apply Now


A Look at Elpis Enterprises

A Look at Elpis Enterprises

Highlighting our partners Elpis Enterprises and their amazing social enterprise model. Watch their video to learn more and see how you can support Elpis youth.
More than Mechanical Work

More than Mechanical Work

Tried and True Youth Mechanics offers a professional development program focused on small engines for high school students in the Forest Lake area. See how three young men took part in the workforce readiness program outside of a traditional day at school and have thrived — earning scholarships, attending postsecondary school for additional training and developing their skills.