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Social Capitalists: Year Up

43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
Social Capitalist 2007 Winner

Year Up

Gerald Chertavian, CEO
Brooklyn, New York
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Year Up's mission is to close the Opportunity Divide in our country by providing urban young adults with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education.

We achieve this through a high-support, high-expectation model that combines marketable job skills, stipends, corporate apprenticeships, college credit, a behavior guidance system and several levels of support to place these young adults on a viable path to economic self-sufficiency. Our intensive training and education program serves urban young adults, ages 18-24, in Boston, New York City, Providence and Washington, D.C.

The problem we're addressing: Low-income young adults receive the least amount of education, while the "livable wage" job market is demanding more skills, education and experience. There are 3.8 million youth in this country who have not progressed beyond a high school diploma and are neither employed nor enrolled in postsecondary education. Youth experiencing this "disconnection" from the economic mainstream make up nearly 15% of all 18-24 year olds, and illustrate the magnitude of a national "opportunity divide" that is getting worse. Without the proper guidance and opportunities, these young adults will continue to face enormous challenges in transitioning from high school lo livable wage careers and higher education.

Founded in 2000, Year Up believes that a well-designed training, education and support program can make an incredible difference in young people's lives. Our innovative approach takes four program elements -- education, experience, support and guidance -- and combines them into a system that emphasizes high expectations for quality work and professional behavior. A strong support structure guides students as they take the needed steps to succeed in careers and post-secondary education.

During their first six months of the program, students attend classes at Year Up, learning technical skills that allow them to succeed in entry-level IT or Investment Operations positions. During the second six months, Year Up students gain experience in apprenticeships at one of more than 70 leading companies, including Bank of America, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, State Street Corporation, Fidelity Investments, Freddie Mac, Perot Systems and Partners HealthCare.

Year Up balances high expectations with a high level of support to build confidence and help students confront issues that could derail their achievements. Year Up provides students with staff advisors, mentors, and tutors -- and each student earns an educational stipend during the program. A signed contract and feedback system guides professional behavior and ensures student accountability. Students also earn up to 18 college credits while at Year Up through partnerships with leading academic institutions, such as Cambridge College, Pace University and Johnson & Wales. During the apprenticeship and after graduation, Year Up provides support relative to job placement, career development and higher education. Graduates build a strong, professional network as members of Year Up's Alumni Association.

Over the next few years, Year Up plans to create a network of sites, serving more than 650 urban young adults in 2008 and 10,000 alumni by 2016. Ultimately, Year Up's goal is to create and implement a replication model that will allow us to effectively serve tens of thousands of urban young adults across the country.

Year Up's rapid growth is a direct result of our results:

  • 100% student placement in apprenticeships
  • 90+% positive apprenticeship feedback
  • 80% retention of students
  • 87% of students placed in professional positions within four months of graduation
  • $15-an-hour average wage
  • 97% of students who apply are accepted to college
  • 44% currently attending college while working
  • 70+ apprenticeship partners, funding more than 50% of operating costs