6: Working with employers to create alternative routes into the professional service sectors – Year Up, 14 US cities with HQ in Boston

Since 2000, Year Up has worked with over 10,000 young people in 15 cities across the US, providing entry-level routes into professions such as finance and IT.111 These are jobs that have the potential to provide good wages and do not necessarily require a degree (44 per cent of technology jobs do not require a degree).112 Year Up students face barriers to employment and higher education. They work with young people that have been in foster care, for example, involved in the court system or in substance misuse. Among Year Up students, 70 per cent are black or Hispanic, 60 to 70 per cent have dropped out of college, and others are working in minimum wage jobs.

Students complete six months of intensive training, with mentoring and coaching, to improve their professional skills before going on to a sponsored internship with a company. Students earn an educational stipend during training and internship and can earn college credits. Students are supported through their internships by their mentors and weekly visits to Year Up during their time with companies.

Participants are largely recruited through word of mouth and referrals from high schools and community partners. Applicants to the programme firstly sign up online, attend an open day and complete an application with a two-page essay before being invited to group and individual interviews to test their dedication, attitude and motivation. Once onto the programme, students sign a behaviour contract, where they ‘fire themselves’ from the programme if they do not meet the professional expectations of Year Up.

Year Up aims to change employer practices in developing and sourcing talent. Beyond its core programmes, Year Up has sought to influence employer practices through the development of an online, digital employer platform to provide information, tools and resources for employers. Year Up also brings employers together to share their experiences in B2B forums.

Year Up ‘future proof’ their students by equipping them with transferrable skills and working “not just to understand where the job market is now but how it is changing”.112 Year Up identifies growing sectors using real-time labour market information provided by Burning Glass114 and has local advisory boards that advise on anticipated demand.

Year Up invests about $25,000 in each of its students, which is substantially more than typical youth employment programmes. Year Up has a unique revenue model in which corporate internship partners cover a significant portion of this cost.115 As the organisation has expanded to operate in 14 different cities across the US, it has had to ensure that there are a significant number of entry level job openings and that the local philanthropic community is large enough to support the launch of the programme and ensure it is self-sustaining.

The programme has achieved a number of positive outcomes, including: 100 per cent placement of qualified Year Up students into internships; over 90 per cent of corporate partners would recommend the Year Up programme to a friend or colleague and 85 per cent of graduates are employed or attending college full-time within four months of completing the programme. Initial results from a small-scale impact study conducted by Mobility demonstrate that Year Up students experience significant earnings gains after a year in the labour market, compared to a control group.116 Year Up participants earned about $13,000 more than members of the control group over the three years after the program and participants’ earnings were 32 percent higher than those of the control group.115 Year Up participants who graduated and secured jobs in either of the programme’s two target occupations, IT and finance, earned the highest hourly wages ($17.42–$18.89).

Employers’ incentives for working with Year Up go beyond corporate social responsibility. Year Up offers a recruitment pipeline to employers seeking to fill middle-skilled jobs that do not necessarily require a degree. With over 300 corporate partners, Year Up has established a strong network of private-sector employers by building a trusted brand. Year Up widens its network of employers by “getting in the door with small asks” and “consulting with employers to understand their needs”.112

The programme’s reach remains limited, however. Year Up estimate there are six to seven million young people not in living-wage jobs or education, and that they serve less than one per cent of Opportunity Youth. Staff estimate that due to the limited number of spaces available, they have to turn away at least 50 per cent of eligible applicants.

In an effort to widen its reach and build sustainable financial models, Year Up has begun to collaborate with community colleges and develop bespoke models for individual companies. Year Up Providence and Hasbro worked together to develop a curriculum to prepare young people for 250 permanent jobs at Hasbro, with Hasbro investing more than $1million to launch the programme. The company has committed to hiring 75 per cent of those who graduate from the training and to helping the remaining graduates into sustainable employment elsewhere in Providence. The Professional Training Corps is a community college based model that provides an opportunity for students to engage in meaningful workforce training. In this model, students are dual-enrolled in the community college and Year Up; technical skills are taught by college faculty, while Year Up staff provide professional skills and other wrap-around services. Year Up is also sharing lessons and best practice with others to help improve ways of working.


  • 111 Interviews
  • 112 Interview
  • 113 Interview
  • 114 See Case Study 13: Data for demand-led interventions: Workforce Intelligence Network
  • 115 Roder, A. and Elliott, M. (2014) Sustained Gains: Year up’s Continued Impact on Young Adult’s Earnings, Economic Mobility Corporation
  • 116 Roder, A. and Elliott, M. (2011) A Promising Start: Year Up’s Initial Impacts on Low-Income Young Adults’ Career, Economic Mobility Corporation
  • 117 Roder, A. and Elliott, M. (2014) Sustained Gains: Year up’s Continued Impact on Young Adult’s Earnings, Economic Mobility Corporation
  • 118 Interview