For students looking to land a full-time job right after college, internship experience has almost become non-negotiable.
But to land an internship, students need a professional network, a strong resume, and a professional skill set. These are areas that students, especially those who are first-generation or low-income, can struggle with.
“We have millions of young people who are struggling to connect to the economy, that are struggling to find opportunity,” says Gerald Chertavian, the founder and CEO of Year Up. Many of these students don’t have “a resume that’s gonna get picked out of the pile by Google or JP Morgan.”
The organization, which serves 4,500 students across the United States, partners with community colleges for a 12-month program, reports Elissa Nadworny at NPR.
For the first six months, students take classes to develop skills in subjects based on the area’s demand, like cybersecurity or data analysis. Other classes teach students professional skills, like email etiquette and resume building.
For the following six months, students intern for course credit at companies like American Express, LinkedIn, and United Airlines. During the program, Year Up provides students social and emotional support.
“We don’t value the acquisition of professional skills that, actually, you need to get a good job today,” says Chertavian. “If you didn’t learn this from mom or dad, or have the good fortune of having role models close to hand, you may be graduating high school with very little knowledge of career readiness.”
Students who complete the program earn an average starting wage of $19 an hour, which is about $38,000 a year, reports Nadworny. And a 2018 study of eight Year Up locations found that 89% of program graduates had a full-time job four months after graduation, and 88% were in a position relevant to training.
For Kelcei Williams, a student at Northern Virginia Community College, Year Up helped her recognize the transferrable skills, like leadership and problem solving, she learned from working in retail.
The program also boosted her confidence and broadened her career options—”I didn’t think I was going to step out of retail for a long time,” she says. Now, Williams says she wants to be a software engineer (Nadworny, NPR, 2/8).
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