Where many see crime and decay, Gerald Chertavian looks at American inner cities and sees untapped talent. Ten years ago, the communications entrepreneur launched Year Up, a year-long training program that helps low-income, urban young adults get the skills they need to land jobs in today’s economy. Year Up, which began with 22 students, now has more than 40 corporate internship partners, 100 community partners, and 300 volunteers and has trained approximately 4,000 young people. Nearly 90 percent of Year Up alums have acquired jobs within four months of completing their apprenticeships at major companies.
At a reception and dinner held at the Ritz-Carlton Boston Commons, Chertavian described the founding and development of the program and outlined a dynamic blueprint for future growth.
The following morning we visited Year Up’s offices in the heart of Boston’s financial district. Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino says, “The best investment we can make for Boston’s future is to create the skilled workforce employers need and to invest in our young people so that they can compete for the jobs of tomorrow. That’s why programs like Year Up are critical.”
First Things First. Year Up leaders, counselors, and admissions’ officers welcomed our group and explained the requirements for acceptance into the program and described the expectations for Year Up students before they graduate from the program.
High Expectation, High Support. Year Up’s high expectation, high support program provides the technical and professional skills, higher education credentials, and opportunities that are essential for a young adult’s path to economic self-sufficiency. Their innovative approach takes four elements—education, experience, support, and guidance—and combines them into a system that emphasizes high quality work and professional behavior. A well-defined structure guides students as they take the steps needed to succeed in careers and post-secondary education. Year Up has an open pact with its students. Although there is tremendous teacher-to-student and peer-to-peer support, there is no coddling. The students know their responsibilities, and if they fail to uphold them, they must resign from the program.
Into the Classroom. Donors paired up with students to observe Year Up’s rigorous classroom model and to participate in courses firsthand. In each Year Up host city, the courses are tailored to meet the local economic needs. Because finance and information technology businesses are dominant in Boston, Year Up classes there focus on technology, business planning, and communication skills.
Unlimited Partnerships. At this session, we heard about Year Up’s mutually beneficial arrangements with its corporate and community partners. Year Up’s distinctive edge is in matching classroom learning to jobs and internships. The cooperation between local businesses and Year Up is a valuable asset. The program needs to place its graduates in businesses, and employers appreciate Year Up’s diligent work in selecting and preparing students. In many ways, Year Up has become a valued human resources partner.
Speakers for this event included:
- Mary Buonanno, corporate director, Partners Healthcare
- Neal Chansky, senior vice president, State Street Corporation
- Shane Kobus, director of technology services, Bain Capital
- Kamau Parker, case worker, College Bound Dorchester
- Adam Reinke, director of community engagement, ACCESS
- Carlo Severo, corporate manager, Partners Healthcare
- Casey Recupero, executive director, Year Up, Boston (moderator)
A View from Year-Up Alums in the Workforce
Year Up is only as successful as its alumni and interns. At this session, six current interns and alums discussed their experience in the workforce and offered their candid feedback about the program that launched their careers. They also described how they are helping future Year Up grads through their service and ongoing participation as mentors. “Moving forward,” they said, “is also about giving back!”
This event provided donors with a first-hand look at how this national, award-winning organization is turning America’s major cities into beacons of opportunity. To learn more about Year Up and The Philanthropy Roundtable's Economic Opportunity program, please call (202) 822-8333.