Monday, October 20, 2014

Year Up Check-In: Young Philadelphians Going Against the Grain

Young Philadelphians dressed in corporate attire – almost oxymoronic given pop culture fashion and high rates of unemployment amongst this group.  Yet, if you are at Peirce during the day you will see 50 young adults dressed to the proverbial nines. They are participants in Year Up, striving to ascend from a mere job (or joblessness) to a career pathway in just one year.

Year Up students dressed to the nines
Year Up is a non-profit organization, founded in Boston. Since, 2000, Year Up has served more than 10,000 young adults in 12 urban centers across the country. Philadelphia, its 12th city, joins Baltimore, Miami, New York, Chicago and Puget Sound to name a few.

Year Up students taking a Selfie with Founder Gerald Chertavian
Year Up’s mission is to close the Opportunity Divide. That is, to connect young low income adults to entry level career opportunities in the corporate sector. Millions of young adults in the US have talent and motivation, but lack opportunity. At the same time, companies have opportunities available, but lack the talent they need to succeed. In response, Year Up provides its participants the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education.

Mission aligned, Year Up and Peirce forged a partnership and launched in the fall term of 2013 with 21 students in its inaugural class. Year Up and Peirce enroll students every 6 months, in the fall and spring terms. Year Up has doubled in size, serving 51 students this fall and expects at least as many in spring, 2015.

51 members of class 3 during orientation August
Year Up is a one year intensive training program. The first half of the year is called the Learning and Development phase. During this time, Peirce provides hard skills training through introductory level IT coursework. Concurrently, Year Up staff spends 13 hours per week with students on soft skills: professional communication, dress and disposition. On Mondays, the program team delivers a course called Pro-skills that builds upon and expands Peirce’s PRC100 course. On Thursday’s there are one-on-one and small group coaching sessions. Fridays, affectionately called Friday Feedback, includes guest speakers, team building activities and a formal, peer-to-peer exchange of feedback on professional behaviors.  On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Year Up students are engaged in Peirce coursework.
“you have got to get comfortable being uncomfortable”, says Annie Subah, member of the very first class at Peirce, reflecting on the advice of her Year Up Mentor.“
Year Up staff member, Stefanie Cuadrado facilitating a team work excercise
After one term at Peirce, students spend six months working 35 hours per week at a large company. This year, Year Up students have interned at Comcast, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, University of Pennsylvania, and Gilbane. Students are placed with a manger within a range of departments like Cyber Security, Quality Assurance, Help Desk Support and HR Operations.
John Ropas, the Managing Director at JPMorgan Chase (JPMC), Wilmington has been a long standing supporter of Year Up from his work with JPMC in New York City. He understands how important it is to cultivate young talent

 “…these Young adults are our future, we need to give them the tools they need to be successful.”

After completing Year Up, students will have earned up to 21 college credits and will be able to tout substantive work experience on their resumes. Having expanded their networks, Year Up students come away with recommendations from experienced professionals at reputable corporations. However, the ultimate goal is for students to be gainfully employed within four months of completing the year-long program.

In the best case scenario, Year Up students are retained by their internship employer. Indeed this was the case for eight of thirteen students who completed the program this past July. Five Year Up students now work at Comcast and three students were retained at JPMC. After the program ends, Year Up staff assists its graduates in leveraging their experience. Ten of thirteen students are working in professional track entry level jobs at an average hourly wage of 18/hour. Moreover, 100% of the first class of students have re-matriculated into Peirce to move toward the completion of their Associates Degree.  The outcomes of Year Up and Peirce’s inaugural class exceed Year Up national standards: 85% working or in school full time with hourly wages of $16/hour.

A hand up is not a handout, Year Up seeks to hoist young people from poverty to a career by providing access to opportunity. Angel Ponce of class one, who recently landed a job at USLI, plans to make good on his opportunity.

“As long as I preserve and I work hard, I can do it. It’s a matter of how hard I work that puts me that much closer to where I want to be”

Year Up and Peirce, embarking on year two, are seeking 50 – 60 students in the spring term. To be eligible for Year Up students must meet the following criterian:
  • Pell and PHEAA
  • High School Diploma or GED
  • 18 – 24 years of age
  • Eligible to work in the United States
  • Must NOT have obtained AA degree already (fewer than 30 college credits preferred)
To apply to Year Up, complete an interest form on line, call the recruitment manager, Craig Smith at 215.670.9394, and visit the Year Up office in Alumni Hall. Dress to impress!