Recovery problems? This organization helps young adults get internships: NPR

Year Up students celebrate during their graduation ceremony at Northern Virginia Community College in Woodbridge, Virginia.

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Year Up students celebrate during their graduation ceremony at Northern Virginia Community College in Woodbridge, Virginia.

Amr Alfiky / NPR

For many students, a crucial step on the road to a good job – or a good career – is the internship. It’s a chance to gain vital experience and prove yourself to employers.

But to get this internship you need a network and a good CV. Both are things a lot of students struggle with, especially those in community colleges.

Students like Kelcei Williams. She attended Northern Virginia Community College in Woodbridge, Virginia. When she arrived on campus, her only experience was at Dunkin ‘Donuts and Lowe’s Home Improvement.

And that, says Gerald Chertavian, is “not a CV that will be chosen by Google or JP Morgan”.

Chertavian is the founder and CEO of a program called Year Up. The organization helps low-income young adults like Williams make the jump from a lean resume to a good job.

Year Up students do credited internships at places like American Express, United Airlines, LinkedIn, and Bank of America. Along the way, Year Up provides social and emotional support.

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Year Up students do credited internships at places like American Express, United Airlines, LinkedIn, and Bank of America. Along the way, Year Up provides social and emotional support.

Amr Alfiky / NPR

“We have millions of young people who are struggling to connect to the economy, who are struggling to find opportunities,” he says.

Almost three decades ago, Chertavian says, he wrote his graduate admission essay on an idea to provide more employment opportunities to underserved youth. But it wasn’t until years later, after building and then selling a successful tech company, that he turned that idea into reality.

Today, approximately 4,500 students participate in the Year Up program across the country.

Here’s how it works: Year Up partners with community colleges for a 12-month program. Students spend the first six months taking classes. Some of these courses are in ‘skills development’ – subject matter based on demand from the region.

For example, cybersecurity or data analysis. Other courses teach job skills like email etiquette, resume writing, and dress up for success.

Then, for the last six months, students complete a credited internship with companies like American Express, United Airlines, LinkedIn, and Bank of America. Along the way, Year Up provides social and emotional support.

“We don’t appreciate learning the job skills you need today to get a good job,” Chertavian says. “If you haven’t learned this from mom or dad, or if you’re lucky enough to have models handy, you can graduate from high school with very little knowledge of how to prepare for it. career.”

Kelcei Williams says Year Up helped her realize that her previous jobs actually gave her a bunch of transferable skills. She is a team leader. She learns quickly. And she can solve the problems on the spot.

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Kelcei Williams says Year Up helped her realize that her previous jobs actually gave her a bunch of transferable skills. She is a team leader. She learns quickly. And she can solve the problems on the spot.

Amr Alfiky / NPR

Last year, when Kelcei Williams was working shifts at Lowe’s, a client mentioned the Year Up program and suggested she apply.

“I didn’t think I was going to be leaving retail for a long time,” Williams said. But now she loves school – “I had the first 4.0 in my life! »- and it reframes its objectives. She wants to be a software engineer.

Williams says Year Up has helped her realize that the time she’s spent serving coffee and helping customers has actually given her a lot of transferable skills – she’s a team leader. She learns quickly. And she can solve the problems on the spot.

She especially enjoyed the focus on what her Year Up executives call, “Show yourself. Show yourself “. In other words, be prepared in your demeanor and dress, because you never know when a business opportunity may arise. Even when students have classes on campus, they are expected to wear work clothes: blazers, ties, white shirts.

Williams says walking around campus in her blazer makes her feel important. She has always struggled with self-confidence, especially after high school.

Now she is more confident of herself and the direction she wants to take in her life.

According to Year Up, students who complete the program earn an average starting salary of $ 19 per hour, or about $ 38,000 per year.

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According to Year Up, students who complete the program earn an average starting salary of $ 19 per hour, or about $ 38,000 per year.

Amr Alfiky / NPR

Her family noticed the change after just six months, especially her mother. “I hear her talking about it on the phone,” Williams said, “and it makes me so grateful that I’m no longer the girl who stays at home.”

Year Up says its graduates aren’t sitting at home either. Students who complete the program earn an average starting salary of $ 19 per hour, or about $ 38,000 per year.

Last year, a federally-funded study found significant wage gains for participants. For the eight locations studied, 89 percent of graduates were employed full-time four months after graduation, and 88 percent worked in an occupation related to their Year Up training.

“You have to change the perception that the four-year degree is a nearsighted tool for eliminating people,” Chertavian explains. “Our students shouldn’t be the miracle or the exception.”

“If this small nonprofit can do it,” he says, “we can really do it as a country. “

During the last six months of Year Up, Kelcei Williams is an intern at Capital One in Richmond, where she works on hardware and software repairs. She says she’s a little nervous, but up for the challenge: she has six months to convince her bosses that they can’t live without her.

Virginia S. Braud