The fields of science, technology, engineering and math, collectively known as STEM, have gained a lot of attention in the recent years the United States. The US is lagging behind several countries when it comes to math and science education. STEM is critical for global competitiveness; however the field is not attracting or retaining as many professionals as in the past. This month at LTAW we will be talking about this field in particular – what is it, how can you get into it and why STEM is critical to the future.
“Year Up’s mission is to close the opportunity divide 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.”
Year Up’s founder Gerald Chertavian, is an Armenian-American social entrepreneur who recognized that there was a huge divide between the opportunities and the number of youth who were prepared to work in our increasingly technical work world.
Founded in 2000 Year Up is a one-year intensive education and professional job training program for urban young adults (age 18-24). The program combines hands-on skill development, college credits, and corporate internships. During the first six months, participants focus on skill mastery in Desktop Support/IT Help Desk, Quality Assurance, or Investment Operations. In addition to technical skill development, Year Up participants also work on professional skills required in a corporate workplace, such as effective communication, leadership, and teamwork. Students are placed in internships during the second six months with partner companies.
Started with just 22 students in Boston, the program has served over 4000 students around the country. With corporate partners such as Google, Bank of America, Kaiser Permanente, AOL, Aon, Domino Sugar, AutoTrader, CVS Caremark, Microsoft, NASA, Red Cross, Time Warner, Wells Fargo and Zynga, just to name a few, Year Up develops skills and matches students for internships and permanent placement.
The outcomes are rather impressive. 84% of Year Up graduates are either employed or in college full time 4 months after completing the program.
I learned about Year Up from one of the current students who lives in Maryland. Canaan Walker is 19 years old and admittedly did not perform very well in high school. “I had to overcome limitations I was putting on myself”, Canaan shared candidly in a recent interview. “In Year Up I am finding myself, what I love to do and I am excited every morning that I get up to go to the program on the campus of NOVA (Northern Virginia Community College)”. As a matter of fact in March Canaan received an award for perfect attendance. This is particularly significant because Canaan takes the Metro daily from his home in Maryland to the Northern Virginia.
Canaan exudes focus, excitement and high hopes when he talks about Year Up. He was recommended to the program by a high school counselor and he says it is just perfect for him. He admits that Year Up is rigorous and requires you to follow the rules. The program is very strict about attendance, earning good grades and showing overall dedication and commitment.
Canaan shared that you start with 200 points and are held accountable for obeying the rules of the program relative to dress code, professionalism and proper behavior such as showing respect. “If you lose too many points, you can be kicked out”, he declared. Additionally, you have to maintain at least a C average in each class to remain in the program.
At this point, Canaan is within the first six months and admits to struggling a bit with the technical training. “We have to actually assemble a computer so that we understand the hardware, software and operating systems. It is hard but I love it,” he enthusiastically offered. Students also learn to use programs such as Excel, PowerPoint and Word.
In the area of professional skills, Canaan is working on how to manage his personal finances, business communications and the intangible aspects of being successful in the workplace by learning more about himself. “We learned about the Johari window which I found fascinating because it helped me to think about things that I don’t know about myself and how I might be perceived by other people.”
Canaan, an accomplished writer of prose and poetry, has a keen desire to pursue a career in game development.
Year Up proclaims it is a hand up, not a hand out. This is one outstanding example of the many programs that are designed to bridge the skill gap. It is truly a win-win.
Kudos to Year Up and we at LTAW wish Canaan Walker all the best. He is a wonderful role model and a testament that you can turn your life around with a hand up!
Getting to Know STEM!
Year Up Logo image courtesy of yearup.org