Year Up: A program to empower talented youth from inner cities by Andrea Hayward

Year Up is a job training program that is tuition free and offers access to today’s best companies and a proven path to career success.

The idea is for every young adult to be able to reach their full potential. To close the Opportunity Divide by ensuring young adults gain the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through careers and higher education.

Andrea Hayward is a volunteer at our food pantry. She is a hard worker who performs many different tasks each week. One evening we were waiting on cars to load up with the week’s bounty. She started explaining an organization she works with that seeks to empower talented individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. I was impressed and asked her to describe the organization and how it operates. Big Hunger wishes to shorten the line. Year Up seeks to do just that, but I am not sure that the food justice movement would welcome corporate involvement. What do you think? RLS 

“Why” Year Up believes that every young adult has potential and deserves opportunity and economic justice. Year Up is committed to ensuring equitable access to economic opportunity, education, and justice for all young adults—no matter their background, income, or zip code. Employers face a growing need for talent while millions are left disconnected from the economic mainstream. These inequities only further perpetuate the Opportunity Divide that exists in our country—a divide that Year Up is determined and positioned to close.

Year Up’s Impact Strategy: In addition to driving impact through direct service and strategic partnerships with employers, talent providers, and policymakers, Year Up is committed to addressing the root causes of the Opportunity Divide in this country and creating pathways to opportunity at broad scale. Helping to power the opportunity movement and make this work possible are two essential partnerships with Grads of Life and YUPRO.

By the numbers: Average starting salary for Year Up graduates is $44,000. 83% of graduates are employed or in postsecondary education with 4 months of program completion. There are 29 campuses across the United States. Year Up Interns received a 90% satisfaction rating from Managers.

Training offerings, career tracks, and internships vary by locations, and may change each cycle, depending on the needs of the corporate partners. Currently there are programs in business operations, financial operations, information technology, sales and customer support and software development. The job training program is 100% tuition free. In addition, students earn an educational stipend throughout the program and make progress toward a college degree. There is a large nationwide alumni network, committed to help students advance their careers.

The program is a one year in duration. The first half of the year is classroom instruction (combined in-person and remote) followed by a six month internship. Students dress in business attire and attend classes Monday through Friday. Course content includes professional development as well as technical training. The entire program prepares students with life skills to be successful in a business environment. Students earn and lose points by meeting and exceeding expectations which are presented in great detail. Additionally, students sign a contract specifying expectations and detailing support provided.

Educators have a professional background and are invested in the students. Many instructors come from business. Additional guest speakers present material on both life skills and technical information. All students are provided a mentor from the business community as part of the program.

Corporate partners are invested in providing opportunities to students in the form of internships. It is also an important pipeline of talent development to fill positions in their organizations. Year Up is more than a workforce development organization, it’s a strategic partner that provides leading companies with a competitive advantage. One key differentiator is the professional skills training. Professional success often depends upon soft skills that are difficult to teach and often ignored. Year Up has honed its soft skills training to deliver confident, accountable, professional young adults who exceed corporate expectations. The Opportunity Talent Year Up provides bring diversity of thought, perspective, and experience to companies, which in turn, fuels innovation. Finally, Year Up works closely with companies to ensure the training program will meet their hiring needs. These unique elements come together to create a new kind of professional training program, and the outcomes prove it.

On average, 41% of interns are converted-to-hire by their internship host company directly following internship. This does not include Year Up alumni who are hired by a partner company for which they did not intern. 83% of graduates are employed and/or enrolled in postsecondary education within four months of completing the program.

Year Up’s Corporate Changemakers play a critical role in helping Year Up close the Opportunity Divide for young adults in this country. They understand that employers must think differently about who is talented to address pervasive hiring challenges that impact their businesses. Changemakers believe that Year Up plays a critical role in unlocking middle skill talent and creating a broad movement for more equitable talent practices across the business sector. They have demonstrated their commitment to our mission through generous philanthropic contributions that help to create substantive systems change and professional opportunities for talented young adults.

For information on how to participate in this program watch the video and visit

loading bags of food into a SUV
Andrea and Rob load a vehicle at the food pantry.

Andrea is a retired CPA and Chief Financial Officer of Year Up, a work-force development organization and from an international intellectual property business. She is a philanthropist, mentor, and volunteer in the areas of food, housing, and education. Andrea is a results-driven leader with a passion for excellence. Originally from Boston, she is a huge sports fan and regular attendee of Red Sox Spring training games.

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