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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Year Up: Overcoming Youth Unemployment Through Professional Training

Earlier this year, there was a great opinion piece by David Bornstein in the New York Times entitled, "Training Youths in the Ways of the Workplace." It shared a quick analysis of the "two types of economies" that are emerging: 1) the corporate economy, relating to the growth and profitability of corporations and high-end earners, and 2) the job economy related to the employment gap for average-wage jobs. It addresses, specifically, the challenge for new, young members of the workforce:
"One group that has been particularly hard hit by the recession is youth. Among workers aged 16 to 24, the unemployment rate is almost 20 percent. For young Latinos, it’s over 24 percent, and for young African Americans, it’s over 32 percent. Some 4.4 million youths are currently unemployed.

This is of serious concern to a country with a rapidly aging population. And while today’s best jobs require post-secondary schooling, 30 percent of U.S. public school students fail to graduate from high school (pdf), and more than half of those who enroll in higher education fail to earn a degree or credential within eight years."

The article digs into the issue at greater length than I sample here. It is a great read, and I highly recommend it. One of the causes of the high unemployment rate for youth that Mr Bornstein notes is the marginalizing catch 22 of not having the opportunity to be exposed to the "professional culture" when you can't get a job. One of the tools for the solution he endorses is Year Up, a non-profit that assists disadvantaged, mostly minority youths, in developing professional acumen.

Founded in 2000, Year Up has grown steadily and has produced some impressive results:
  • 100% placement of qualified students into internships
  • 95% of interns meet or exceed partner expectations
  • 84% of graduates employed or in college full time within
    four months of graduation
  • $15/hr average wage at placement

Source: 2008 - 2009 organization-wide results

Year Up currently has locations in:

  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • New York City
  • Providence
  • San Francisco - Bay Area
  • Seattle
  • Washington DC
It is a great opportunity for volunteers from all professions to share their expertise.

Opportunities include:
  • Guest Speakers - Share learning on industry topics such as Entrepreneurship, E-Commerce, Leadership, and other interest areas. Time Commitment: One hour session.
  • Job Coaches - Assist with job preparation including resume writing and mock interviewing. Time Commitment: 1-2 hours.
  • College Application Advisors - Assist with the application process, including writing essays and financial aid forms. Time Commitment: 1-2 hours per week.
  • Mentors - Provide guidance, support and advice to Year Up students. Time Commitment: Meet twice a month for 12 months.
  • Curriculum Coaches - Work one-on-one with students learning technical skills (e.g. Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and HTML). Time Commitment: In person, by phone, or by email - 2+ hours per week for 3-6 months.
  • Instructors - Teach professional and/or technical skills as a member of our learning team. Time Commitment: 2-3 days per week.
It is a particularly powerful opportunity for those of us in the Workforce Development field to not only share our professional expertise with youth, but apply our skills in the development of the organization itself.

If Year Up is not in your community, there are likely other, similar, organizations that are. It is a direct and powerful way to invest in your local community and economy.

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