OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Year Up: One Year to a Career

Year Up empowers young adults to launch their careers in a single year via an intensive training and internship program, for free.

Photo of Ivellisse Morales
8 8

Written by

In an ideal world, four years at a traditional college or university in the US will result in a hard-earned degree and, hopefully, a job upon graduation. In the real world, that’s not necessarily the case. Nowadays, the pursuit of higher education as a path towards a career is leaving young adults in crippling student debt and chronic unemployment.

The good news is is that there’s hope.

In just one year, San Francisco native Christian, 20, went from working overtime at a local grocery store to working as an Associate Technology Support Analyst in Deloitte’s IT department.

Disclosure: I worked at Year Up from August 2014 - October 2015. On the far right is Christian, my advisee whom I mentored throughout his Year Up journey.

How did he do it? Year Up.

Year Up is a free, year-long training and internship program for careers in technology. It serves as a career accelerator for young adults between the ages of 18 - 24 that are disconnected from livable wage employment and higher education.

In the first six months of the program, students learn the in-demand hard skills and business soft skills that will allow them to excel at at their six-month paid corporate internship. Not to mention, students can earn up to 24 college credits and receive a weekly education stipend throughout the program.

85% of Year Up graduates are employed or attending college full-time within four months of completing the program. Those employed earn an average starting salary of $16 per hour or $32,000 per year for salaried employees.

Let’s hear more from Christian about his experience.

Did you have aspirations to pursue college after high school?
College seemed like the natural next step after high school, but I decided it wasn’t for me. I noticed that a lot of my fellow classmates were extremely stressed. I didn’t want to put myself through the confusing and time-consuming process of filling out applications and scholarships, figuring out financial aid packages and out-of-pocket expenses.

Most of all, I didn’t want to put my parents or myself into debt.

From your perspective, what’s the purpose of college?
The way I see it, college gives you the tools and knowledge to get a better job. But I know that a degree doesn’t mean you’ll get your dream job, which is why it was difficult for me to justify the pursuit for higher education.

Now that you’ve graduated from Year Up and have a great paying job, do you want to pursue college still?
Yes, absolutely. I think continuing my education will keep me “in the know” for my field of work. Right now, I’m working towards technical certifications from Apple, HP and Dell. My employer also offers an amazing tuition reimbursement benefit where I can take college courses related to my functional role and have them pay a portion of it. I definitely plan to take advantage of that.

What impact has Year Up had on your life?
I don’t have a college degree yet I still have a great paying job at a great company where I can see myself grow and stay for the long-term. I don’t have to worry about money anymore and I also get to financially support my parents. It’s incredible that I got myself here in one year when it could’ve taken me four years and a lot of debt.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

The traditional path towards a career by means of a college education is being disrupted by career accelerators and workforce development programs like Year Up. How might we couple college with hands-on work experience or internships to lower education costs? Is college necessary to launch a successful career?


Join the conversation:

Photo of Huy

Amazing idea because it gives students such strong experience to different career paths while also giving them some money in their pockets! What is also amazing is that it offers hands-on training on how these technical skills are to be utilized in the workplace, which as a student, I face this problem often where I learn things in class but have no idea how it's useful to benefit a company. I think this program should be offered more often at colleges and especially high schools to inform students about these opportunities.

While I don't believe college is necessary to launch a successful career, I do think college is necessary for students to mature. I think jumping immediately into work out of high school is pretty scary and some students are not mature and ready for the workforce yet. College is a time to build experiences and meet new friends. Still think this is a great idea, but I'm not sure how this YearUp program will change the college experience for the typical student.

Photo of Ivellisse Morales

Hi Huy - I'm happy to hear that you're inspired by Year Up's program model. You make a great point that college is more than just a degree - it's an experience. Year Up does a great job in building community among the students. They're grouped into "Learning Communities" or a cohort of 40 students that work and grow together from Day One at Orientation until the day of graduation. These Learning Communities end up becoming a strong support network and lifelong friends not to mention a professional network. Year Up also has a different model called "Professional Training Corps" or PTC that is co-located on a community college's campus and provides an abridged version of the training and internship program for these college students. You can learn more about it here:

View all comments